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Burniel
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Orlando & Tampa Trip Reports August 2016

Thu Aug 04, 2016 3:15 am

Hi all,

I'll be using this thread to report back from my park visits throughout my 14-day holiday to Florida. I'll try to report daily, time dependent.

Day 1 (03/08/2016) - EPCOT and Disney Springs:

What with being up for 20 hours yesterday, a more relaxed start to the day was much needed. Upon arrival at 10:30, we soaked in the entrance atmosphere for a bit, grabbed a map and started working out where on earth we were meant to be going for our first Fasspass+ reservation (Test Track, 10:55-11:55). We arrived a little bit early, so hung around for a bit and did a bit of planning before joining the Fastpass+ queue dead on the start of our window. The Fastpass was a good move here, cut a 70 minute wait to 10 and was managed fairly and efficiently.

Test Track was fantastic, I loved the way screens showed whose car was best at each challenge as this added a competitive edge to the ride. I had no idea the power section was so fast, hit 64.9mph! Overall a fantastic attraction, worth spending a day at EPCOT just to ride it.

After a quick trip to see Baymax, we took a trek to The Seas with Nemo and Friends. The queue stated 35 minutes, but I was amazed to find myself on the ride after half an hour as the number of people in the queue was enormous (that thing devours people!) The ride itself was a good family dark ride, but not something to rave about.

Next up was our second Fastpass+ ride - Mission: Space. Choosing the more intense orange training, we didn't seem to miss much queue, despite the board outside advertising a 40 minute stand-by wait. The simulation was incredible and the interactivity was a great touch; I'd thoroughly recommend it to all who have no problems with intensity, darkness and confined spaces, but it probably isn't worth a Fastpass.

We then began our walk around World Showcase. Given the sheer size of the place, we assumed it impossible to properly see every nook and cranny, so we instead opted for a relaxed walk around the lake, absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of the many countries on offer. We bought a light lunch in the Boulangerie/Patisserie in France. The food was good, but at $40 for three baguettes, a pastry and some drinks, it's more than a little expensive for what you get.

3:00 saw our Fasspass+ reservation on Spaceship Earth (the ride in the giant ball). We walked almost straight onto this ride of discovery. Unfortunately, the speakers on my seat were broken, rendering the audio aspect of the ride fairly useless, but I did enjoy the scenery and the bits of audio I picked up from other people's speakers.

This was followed by two rides which had no queue: Journey into Imagination and Living with the Land. Neither were amazing, but both were worth our time. Whilst in the LAND, we saw that the wait for Soarin' was in excess of an hour. Not really feeling in the mood for such a wait, we (reluctantly) left it. Although all the reviews for Soarin' have been positive, none of my group (including myself) are wowed by simulators very often, so we were more than satisfied having already done Mission: Space.

We then left the park. Overall, a decent day. I'm very glad we saw what EPCOT was all about, but I wouldn't be hurrying back. While Test Track and Mission: Space made the day a success regardless of anything else, I don't think the park would be nearly as successful if it weren't a Disney park. Had the same idea been used by any lower-quality company, I doubt I would have enjoyed the park much zt all.

The evening saw us attempt to drive directly to Disney Springs from the park (we got lost for a bit) for shopping and dining. Upon arrival at 5:15, we spent over an hour shopping and exploring this town centre style area. We then ate at D-Luxe Burgers, a brilliant burger joint which offered a variety of burgers and sides. The process reminded me a lot of GBK back home, where you go up and order and then return to your table. The portions were large and the fries were excellent, great for some quick evening grub.

That marked the end of the first day of our adventure. We have Islands of Adventure planned for tomorrow, hopefully Hulk won't have officially opened. Can't wait to get back on Forbidden Journey!
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Reports August 2016

Fri Aug 05, 2016 11:57 am

Nice TR. Believe me, it may not look long but the queue for Mission:Space orange is a lot longer because 3/4 of the simulators are for the 'green' mode. So it's just one simulator for Orange now I believe.
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Reports August 2016

Fri Aug 05, 2016 1:53 pm

Max wrote:
Nice TR. Believe me, it may not look long but the queue for Mission:Space orange is a lot longer because 3/4 of the simulators are for the 'green' mode. So it's just one simulator for Orange now I believe.

I see ... that makes sense, the green queue definitely looked quicker!



Day 2 (04/08/2016) - Universal Orlando Resort:

We awoke to some disappointing news - it was to be Hulk's opening day. We had been hoping that it would still be softing (as this would have made it far quieter), but we refused to let this ruin our day and pressed on with our Islands of Adventure plan.

Upon arrival at the park at 10:15, we shuddered to think of the queues for Hulk and so instead headed for the back of the park for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade. The area was as beautiful as I remember from my trip five years ago - everything has been thought of. Our first ride of the day was to be Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Back in 2011, I ranked this as the best ride I'd ever been on and I can certainly see why. Not only was the queue quick (we were actually on the ride within half an hour, despite the 60 minutes suggested at the entrance), the ride was a perfect combination of screens and scenery. Slick, smooth and incredibly fun, I found it to be the best dark ride I'd ever been on.

Next up was Dragon Challenge. At a 15 minute wait per go, I was able to experience both sides of this fantastic pair of inverts. I would agree with popular opinion and say that Chinese Fireball was far superior, but this was not because I found Hungarian Horntail to be unpleasant; Chinese Fireball just seemed to have the better layout. My seating positions may have had something to do with it: edge seat row 5 for Fireball, inside seat row 3 for Horntail. Personally, I'd rank Chinese Fireball slightly above Nemesis. Of the four inverts I've now done, Chinese Fireball would be #1, Nemesis #2, Hungarian Horntail #3 and Nemesis Inferno #4.

We then stopped for a quick butterbeer (which was a 10 minute queue in itself). I thought it tasted disgusting, would not recommend. As we didn't bother with Flight of the Hippogriff (got that cred in 2011), Jurassic Park River Adventure was up next. After queuing just 20 minutes in what looked like a huge queue, we were on. I think the ride could be described as one that would be absolutely incredible in another park, but was no more than what I expected from Universal. The animatronics were good, the audio was good and it got me wet on a 35C day.

We passed by Skull Island: Reign of Kong and saw a 90 minute queue. I'm sure the ride's great, but I couldn't justify queuing that long for it when there were so many other good dark rides on far lower queues.

Lunch was at Blondie's in Toon Lagoon. Wanting to keep it light (I had my eyes on Hulk in the afternoon), I had a ham sub, which was very tasty and had lots of meat in. Thumbs up here.

Unfortunately, this was when the heavens opened. Ha! we thought, we can just sit here for 45 minutes until the storm dies down. Aren't we clever? After a while, it became clear that the rain was not going to clear entirely, so we headed out when it got lighter. Thinking that rides would be operating in light rain, we headed to Ripsaw Falls in the hope of it being quieter due to the weather. Indeed, it was quieter - it was closed, along with every other outdoor ride in the park.

The trouble with Islands of Adventure is that, unlike Universal Studios Florida, the majority of its rides are outdoors. There are three large dark rides at the park (Forbidden Journey, Kong, and Spiderman). We had already done one and we knew the other was on 90 minutes and so headed for Spiderman.

We found Spiderman on a reported 45 minute wait. We joined the queue and found it very slow-moving. When we finally made it inside, we found out why. The sheer number of express pass users entering the ride meant that the express:standard ratio was forced upwards, making the queue take a grand total of 70 minutes. However, I'd argue that the ride was probably worth it. I seriously cannot decide between Forbidden Journey and Spiderman and so they're currently joint top of my dark rides list.

When we exited, the rain was still light and very few rides were running. We therefore decided to head for Universal Studios Florida for the late afternoon. Upon arrival, we went straight for Revenge of the Mummy, which was on a 35 minute queue. A fantastic coaster, one of he best family/transition rides I've ever done (although it was rough in places!)

Next up we headed to Men in Black to find it closed, and so instead took a ride on The Simpsons Ride. This was not nearly as good as I remember. It takes more than a screen to interest me. This felt like watching all the action of an episode of the Simpsons compressed into a fear minutes of senseless chaos.

We then caught the 5:30 showing of Terminator 2: 3D. I've never watched the Terminator films so I appreciate that I would never get as much out of this attraction as other might, but I found this to be very underwhelming. The 3D was of low quality, the pre-show was long winded and dull and it was just generally not what I would have hoped from Universal.

After this, we headed to the Hard Rock Cafe for an excellent meal. Only gripe was that they seem a bit lax about what counts as "rock". I heard Taylor Swift, Drake and even PSY's Gangnam Style playing throughout the restaurant at times.

Leaving the restaurant at 7:30, we saw that Hulk and Rip Ride Rockit were finally cranking back up. Exhausted, we agreed that they were rides for another day and left the resort.

Overall a fantastic day with some fantastic rides. We didn't let the weather ruin the day and have left plenty to do later in the holiday. Highlights were Forbidden Journey, Spiderman, Dragon Challenge and Revenge of the Mummy.
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Reports August 2016

Mon Aug 08, 2016 12:06 am

Eagerly awaiting the SeaWorld report! (Assuming you're visiting)

Great reports so far!
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Reports August 2016

Mon Aug 08, 2016 3:25 am

MakoMania wrote:
Eagerly awaiting the SeaWorld report! (Assuming you're visiting)

Great reports so far!

Watch this space ;)

Day 3 (05/08/2016) - Magic Kingdom:

As we wished to stay into the late evening, we decided to arrive late. After a fantastic breakfast at a local Denny's (to keep us going all day without a sit-down meal), we drove to the park. After parking the car at 11:20 and actually walking into the park at midday (for those who haven't visited, you have to take a tram and a Monorail/boat from the car parks), we took some compulsory photos around the castle before walking vaguely into Adventureland. Bypassing a 60 minute wait for Jungle Cruise, we entered the queue for Pirates of the Caribbean. We queued just 20 minutes in a queue which stretched almost right to the ride's entrance. The ride was fantastic and featured several moments at which I had to do a double-take to check if the animatronics weren't actually real people.

The time had then just ticked over into our first Fastpass+ window - 12:45 for Splash Mountain. Cutting a 50-minute queue, we were on almost immediately. I had completely forgotten just how long the ride is (and how wet!) A true example of how a Log Flume should be done, SM was enjoyable and magical all-round.

Next up was Haunted Mansion (BTM was booked for later). After a very uncomfortable half an hour in the queue (no air conditioning and hot lamps everywhere, not to mention the 100F temperature outside), we arrived at the pre-show. I will confess to knowing this almost by heart, it's a true example of how these things should be done), we boarded the ride. Despite its age, I found that the ride was excellent. A member of the GP would not be able to tell.

We then took the train to Fantasyland and walked to Space Mountain for a Fastpass+ ride. After waiting around 10 minutes (far better than the 80 stand-by line), we took our seats. If you think about it, Space Mountain is a bunch of old track in a less-than-thrilling layout in a dark room, yet it's so much more. It has the magic that other rides dream of having - nothing can match it.

Judging by the wetness of the floor, we had missed an early afternoon storm whilst inside Space Mountain. Hooray! Now 3:00, we took a walk into Fantasyland. We saw Seven Dwarfs Mine Train on 140 minutes (no thanks) and took a ride on It's A Small World. Whilst it wouldn't be a trip to Disney without a ride on this classic, I find it very hard to believe that people genuinely like the ride. I respect that it's not exactly my type of ride, but I saw a lot of blank black walls places where there wasn't much to look at. I expected more from the world's most visited theme park.

Fastpass number three was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I couldn't help but feel a little emotional (the ride closes this coming Monday for a refurbishment) about being one of the last riders on the current version. However, I can definitely see why this is happening - it's looking dated in places and good lord, please make that chain quieter!

We hopped back on the train, this time to Main Street. On this, we booked a 5pm Fastpass on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin before grabbing some food at Main Street Bakery. I had fond memories of this, but I found it disappointing - no seating and a long line of people waiting extra so that the people in front of them could have their names printed on their Starbucks cup. Still, the brownie I had was good.

Buzz was a pleasant surprise. Although my mother had no interest in shooting and instead sabotaged my attempts at getting a decent score by spinning the car wildly and constantly, it was a laugh. We booked a Jungle Cruise Fastpass for 7:15 (I love Disney's system, other parks could learn a lot) and then took some time to explore Tomorrowland.

We first experienced Stitch's Great Escape. What a waste of time. Walking into the main ride area, I genuinely thought we could be in for a Sub-Terra, what with a load of OTSRs on seats which seemed to have nowhere to move. I still don't really know what the point of the ride is - a lot of it is just sitting there in the dark while minor things happen. By far the worst attraction of the trip so far, don't bother with it.

On a more positive note, we also tried out the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover. A queue stretching far out of the entrance took a mere five minutes. The ride is very long, especially considering its surprising speed, and I wasn't expecting it to go inside Space Mountain! A very pleasant surprise and it's hard to complain with such a short wait.

We then explored the Emporium complex on Main Street. I did this in the hope of finding some nice merch, but was very disappointed. Why is it that most of the stuff in Disney's park shops is just generic stuff I could get at a high street Disney store for half the price? Very little options when it comes to stuff with the park's name on or even items with a particular ride on. I eventually settled on a small key ring in the shape of the castle.

We then took our ride on Jungle Cruise. We had a very good skipper, seemed very enthusiastic despite the fact that he'd probably been doing it for hours by the early evening.

Finally, we chose one final ride before the 9PM parade - Tomorrowland Speedway. This is a surprisingly fun ride - think Driving School, but no need to control your car's direction, no restrictions and no whiny kids to crash into you. I also like the amount of trust they put in you. At one point, a staff member had to get to someone on the inside lane and she got us all to stop so she could get past us safely. Nothing stopping the movement of our cars, just her politely asking us not to run her over :lol

It was then 8:20 and we set up camp in Liberty Square to ensure we had a place to view the Main Street Electrical Parade at 9. Such an incredible parade, the work that goes into these things is unbelievable.

After this, we headed home. Unfortunately, we were all far too knackered to stay for the 10pm fireworks, let alone facing the monorail queues after they finished.

I know I'm a bit behind on the reports, more coming soon! :)
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Reports August 2016

Wed Aug 10, 2016 3:41 am

Evening! Long time no speak.

Day 4 (06/08/2016) - Blizzard Beach:

We arrived at the park just a few minutes after its 10am opening. We walked straight in and piled straight into the queue for the Chairlift to take us up to the peak of Mount Gushmore (from which nearly all slides are accessible). In retrospect, this was a mistake, as the queue for the Chairlift alone was 15 minutes and the time spent in this queue would have been far better spent walking to the top and getting straight on a slide.

We did the most anticipated slide of the day (Summit Plummet) first. At 120 feet and 60 mph, this is the third tallest and fastest freefall slide in the world. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, I think this makes it the second tallest ride at Walt Disney World. After waiting what I think was half an hour (didn't have a watch on for obvious reasons), we were on. The first 50 feet of the drop were fantastic. Unfortunately, the speed then takes over and makes the ride experience simply painful. Although the pain soon disappeared once off the ride, it was not worth it. I'd give it a 5/10 - ironically, I'd rate it higher if it weren't as tall.

We took the Chairlift up again (used single rider this time and we were all on within 3 minutes) and went for something calmer: Teamboat Springs. This high-throughput slide seats riders in boats of six and takes them on a fast yet family-friendly trip down a twisting slide. I was pleased to note that they dispatched our boat of four without searching for any groups of two to join us. This made the experience far better. 9/10.

We then walked up to Toboggan Racers - an 8-slide toboggan race down a short dipping slide. We waited a fair bit for this (Saturday was a bad idea for a waterpark to be honest!), but it was all good fun. It can't really earn more than a 7/10 due to its disappointing length, however.

It was then back up the mountain for Snow Stormers - a set of three more interesting toboggan slides. These were really good. Anything could be around the corner (EG a sharp bend or drop) and there's no preparation. 8/10.

Lunch came in the form of LottaWotta Lodge. After waiting no less than half an hour in a line of about eight groups, we were finally served. My food - a pepperoni flatbread - was good, but for some reason the drinks didn't come with lids and straws. This was fairly annoying as the area was plagued with wasps. Wouldn't recommend this place.

We did a lap around the park's lazy river after lunch before heading up to Slush Gusher. It soon became apparent that we should have got this out of the way earlier. We waited an estimated 45 minutes for this (this includes a 10 minute breakdown) from the queue's entrance. The slide, however, was very good. From sight, it looks inferior to Summit Plummet (the two are right next to each other and have a 30ft height difference), but Slush Gusher was by far the better slide. My entire body left the slide on the last hump! 9/10. We also had a re-ride on Teamboat Springs (high throughputs meant the queue was under 10 minutes).

Downhill Double Dipper was next. Again, we waited around 45 minutes before getting on (just in time too - the afternoon thunderstorm was about to start!). The slide is short but really rather good. Considering its lengthy queues, I wouldn't be too gutted if I missed it, but it was enjoyable. 7/10.

We were shocked to find out it was 4:30! What with a thunderstorm settling in, we felt it wasn't worth staying for the few minor attractions we'd missed and called it a day. A good waterpark with some good slides. Definitely worth a visit (on a weekday if possible!).


Day 5 (07/08/2016) - Break:

We had a break day on this day. Not much to talk about, but as a quick overview:

After a breakfast at Denny's (we will be back for round three, fantastic stuff), we visited the Florida Mall for a couple of hours before heading back to our villa for some time in our pool.

Dinner was at Longhorn, a Steakhouse rated #2 restaurant in Kissimmee according to TripAdvisor. Absolutely fantastic food which can suit the fussiest and fanciest of eaters. A family of four can have a steak dinner for around $100, making it excellent value as well. Can't see how it could be topped.



And MM, I was at SeaWorld today - Mako is absolutely insane.
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Reports August 2016

Wed Aug 10, 2016 11:15 am

Burniel wrote:
And MM, I was at SeaWorld today - Mako is absolutely insane.


Yep ;)

So comfortable as well
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Reports August 2016

Sun Aug 28, 2016 5:27 pm

Well I let this die :P

Revival time.

Day 6 (08/08/2016) - Discovery Cove & Universal Evening #1:

As Discovery Cove is all-inclusive and opens at stupid o'clock in the morning, we were up bright and early so that we could abuse the free food and drink as much as possible :P. We left our villa at about 7:15 and arrived in Discovery Cove within half an hour. After a short sign-in process and our complimentary photo, we went straight for breakfast.

The choice for breakfast was fantastic. At least 8 different cooked items were available, as well as pastries, cereal, muffins etc. Hot drinks, juices and even fizzy drinks were on offer. What a great way to start the day!

The pools open at 9am, so we relaxed for a bit before getting our locker and getting our jackets fitted. Thankfully, it was to be a pretty cold day for August in Orlando - about 80F/27C. As such, we didn't see the need to put any of their sun cream on (you have to use their cream for the protection of the animals, but it's really not nice). We got a bit red, but we couldn't be the only British people on the plane home who weren't. :lol

We hadn't booked to swim with dolphins for a few reasons: firstly, because we've done it before and it's questionable whether it's worth the price on your second trip and secondly, because we didn't book far enough in advance (we booked in Feb/March time) to get it on a convenient day anyway. However, I would definitely recommend this for first-timers, fantastic experience.

We went straight for the grand reef (ray/fish snorkelling pool with shark exhibit). It took a while to get used to the FREEZING water and breathing with a snorkel, but I was off quite quickly. Swimming around this lagoon is a feeling that simply can't be put into words. All I can say is: don't come to Orlando without doing Discovery Cove!

After a couple of hours in here, we went to Freshwater Oasis, where we lasted 10 minutes before being ordered out because of lightning in the area. All pools had been evacuated, so everyone was just sort of milling around for five minutes before almost everyone in the park piled into the lunch queue for an early bite. Fortunately, we were towards the front of this scramble, so no problems.

I'm the sort of fussy eater who usually goes for the chicken strips at a theme park. Unfortunately, this meant that I didn't really like the look of any of the main meals on offer, but this wasn't a problem because they don't control how many desserts you can take ;). The desserts were great and I'm told by my family that the main meals were good.

After lunch, we did Freshwater Oasis and their lazy river thing that I can't be bothered to look up the name of, before spending the rest of our time in the Grand Reef. That really is incredible. We also had a series of drinks and snacks throughout the afternoon. It's really simple, they have a load of shacks all over the place and you literally just walk up, take whatever you want and walk off. Such a strange feeling.

We left in the late afternoon. We had all agreed during the day that we'd spend the evening at Universal, but because we hadn't planned this before, we hadn't taken our tickets and so on. Unfortunately, this meant a half-hour drive home, 10 minutes running around inside the villa getting everything we needed and a half-hour drive back into Orlando for Universal, arriving at about 6:15. However, all was not lost - the parking (which is usually $20 for standard and $30 for preferred) goes down to $5/$10 at 6!

We started our evening by heading into Universal Studios Florida, with the idea that we could always use the Hogwarts Express to get to IOA if we ran out of things to do (we still needed to do that). After walking straight past Rip Ride Rockit's deadly 75 minutes, we found Transformers: The Ride 3D on 35 minutes, which isn't too bad at all (I'd seen it on 60 previously). I didn't actually realise that it uses the exact same ride system as Spiderman. The ride itself was very good, but it was very difficult not to compare it to Spiderman all the way around. I think I preferred Spiderman. I definitely thought Spiderman's story was better and more complicated than just OMG THERE'S ROBOTS AND THEY WANNA KILL US. Nonetheless, a very strong dark ride, probably my #4 non-coaster dark ride, haven't properly worked it out yet.

Next up was Men In Black: Alien Attack, sitting on a beautiful 10 minutes. I cannot stress enough how fantastic these parks are at night. So atmospheric, yet all queues were half of what you'd wait during the day. Fantastic. Men In Black was a good ride, but you can tell it's old. I also think the scoring system's a bit wrong. My younger sister absolutely thrashed me 150,000 to 80,000, but I hit the emergency button at the right moment and was given a 100K bonus. Bit unfair, becuase she totally deserved to win, but oh well.

We didn't bother entering Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone as I already had the coaster cred from 2011 and there wasn't anything that interested any of us much there. Next up was Diagon Alley. This is how theming should be done. By far the best park area I've ever been in. I didn't really take the time to look through any of the shops (it's all overpriced tat, anyway), but I did explore a few nooks and crannies of the many alleyways that branched off the main street. We then reached Escape from Gringotts. Queue was posted 20 minutes, actually took more like 30, but it was a pleasure to wait in such an incredible place. The goblins were just unbelievable! The coaster itself was ok, I think my full review should go in a spoiler tag:

Spoiler: show
I hadn't really followed any of Diagon Alley or this coaster (wanting it to be a surprise), so my shock when it turned out to be a tilt coaster was a sight! I just sat there spouting off all the geeky goodness about what the heck was happening to us whilst in awe that it actually was. I don't know why it amazed me so much. The rest of the coaster was ... weird. It had coaster sections, but wasn't thrilling, even the launch. As a dark ride, it was ok but far too reliant on screens. I'd rather ride Forbidden Journey to be brutally honest. Don't get me wrong, I loved it, but I think reviews that say Forbidden Journey is nothing on it are pushing it a bit.


By now it was 9 and pretty dark. And so, we headed to Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit for a ride in the dark! The queue had reduced to 35 minutes. The queue looked 10 minutes to the untrained eye, but as a Chessington regular, I'm used to Maurer throughputs. It took pretty much exactly 35. My mum and sister got the front of the train (lucky sods), whilst me and my dad sat behind, both listening to Rollin' to get it as loud as possible. As a coaster ... meh. The V-Lift, first drop and non-inverting loop are great, but then it fizzles out, due to being trimmed to death. Such a shame. These two disappointments at the end of the day meant that Revenge of the Mummy was probably my favourite coaster at the park, which was very surprising!

We were all pretty tired by now. The only ride we needed to do to complete the park was Despicable Me, which was sitting on 75 minutes. We decided to leave it for another day. We needed to get the Hogwarts Express at some point anyway. We called it a day (after stopping at Menchie's!). We'd been out since 7 o'clock in the morning, after all!

Hoping to get back into these, but they'll probably be infrequent.
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