Days 6 – Staying at Hard Rock Hotel, Volcano Bay and more Universal

Breakfast this morning was finally at Waffle House after I didn’t get lost and found one! You can always rely on Waffle House for cheap good food and lots of it. Service is always great and the servers do make it a fun place to eat. Plus they have the tastiest and biggest hash browns. We did notice these seem to be everywhere on the 192 and not so prominent when you get to I-Drive so if you fancy trying one of their delicious breakfasts then head towards Kissimmee you’re bound to come across one!

 

I’d heard lots of good things about Hard Rock so we were both really looking forward to staying here. Mostly because of the early entry to the parks and the unlimited Express Passes that come with a room booking šŸ™‚

We checked in about 9ish and were lucky as our room was actually ready for us. The smell of this hotel is unbelievable! I did ask if you can buy it but you can’t, they are missing a trick with that one! Because you get the early park entry with your room you can actually check in as early as 7am on the day of your stay to make use of it. Your room might not be ready but you can leave your bags somewhere safe.

We had a quick look at the room and got changed to head to Volcano Bay for a swim. The rooms are big and spacious and we loved the music channels as well. You can even make your own playlist that you can download to remind you of your trip.

My favourite thing about the room was this, it had me in fits – no-one else found it quite so funny..

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The good thing about staying on Universal is that all the parks are really close and we got on a bus from our hotel to Volcano Bay. It gave us a chance to see some of the other hotels on property as well. It was quick and there is no way to walk there from Hard Rock.

We didn’t actually take any pictures really in Volcano Bay just a few as we went it. It’s a great park. The Tapu Tapu worked great, its given to you as you go in and each of the rides have machines where you can scan it to put you in a virtual queue for that ride. We were lucky it was pretty quiet. Paul and Amelia managed to get on a few slides. The ‘Oh No’ was her favourite. It was a slide which ends 6ft above the pool giving you a free fall drop to the water.

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Volcano Bay has 2 lazy rivers, if you want to chill out and relax make sure you enter the right one. TeAwa The Fearless river is anything but relaxing. It’s like white water rafting in a rubber ring, its so much fun but kind of impossible to get off! The wave surges come at just the wrong time and kept shooting me past the exit, I think we went round 4 times and it’s not a short river!

Disabled Access here is really good, there was an entrance for me on the rivers with hoists to put you in and out of the water, most of the slides had lifts to get you up to them so if you are in a wheelchair you can still experience a lot of the park which is great.

The Volcano is stunning when you see it, and the wave pool in front of it is perfect to just chill out and soak up the sun. Do not forget your sun cream, we were there for a few hours and I ended up with red legs!

We went back to the hotel for a few hours to ease our sunburn and just as we sat down we had a knock at the door and some Champagne and Chocolates delivered as a Honeymoon gift from the hotel which was lovely, we were chuffed with that šŸ™‚ Made light work of the bottle and went off to Universal Studios a little bit tipsy…

 

The Express Passes you get with your room booking are fab. It’s actually your room key that acts as your pass so buying a lanyard is a great idea, it’s a good way to carry them around šŸ™‚

We were straight on every ride we wanted to do. Jimmy Fallon is amazing. We were obviously aware of his show and who he is but you don’t need to to enjoy it. The pre show is fabulous with a barbershop quartet like he has on the show singing some modern classics for you, I really enjoyed that. It’s worth queueing for just for them. And it does keep you entertained while you wait. The ride itself is another 3D/4D ride simulator of which there are quite a few at Universal. The general idea of these is pretty similar yet they are all unique in their own way. This one takes you on a race through New York City taking in all the sights like the Empire State and Statue of Liberty before ending up back in the Tonight show studio.

Amelia had been going on and on and on and on about Rip Ride Rockit since our last trip, it was another one we had tears about with her being so little. Having the Express pass meant she could go on as many times as she liked and I lost count at 5, seeing this little gem after she’d been on it made my day!

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We managed to get on Simpsons, which still makes me feel sick, Men in Black and The Mummy before our day was cut short because of the weather.

I mentioned the photopass in my last blog which we managed to get a good deal on and we did use it as much as we could. It’s nowhere near as good as the Disney one and there isn’t really any photographers about much it’s mostly just on rides and character meets you can use it. There isn’t a lot of those at all. With all the photo opportunities all over Universal and particularly in Wizarding World I think Universal would benefit from having more photographers dotted about. That being said we did take advantage of it today with ET and SpongeBob šŸ™‚

Dinner today was in Mels Diner which I wasn’t overly impressed with if I’m honest. I’d eaten there before and I remembered having jukeboxes on the table but I’m sure it used to be table service. Food was ok, not brilliant and it was quite expensive.

We spent the evening chilling out with cocktails by the pool and sitting in the hot-tub not an entirely bad way to spend the evening. Universal doesn’t have the evening shows like Disney does so the parks do close earlier. You do have Citywalk to explore but being as we only had one night in the hotel we did want to make use of the pool and have a quiet and early night. We need to be awake enough to take full advantage of early entry for Diagon Alley!!

Tomorrow we get the chance to visit Diagon Alley without all the crowds!

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It’s NEXT WEEK!!

Excuse me while I squeal a little!! I can now finally say we go next week!! The excitement is getting a bit much now to be honest I may well burst at any moment!

I get asked loads why I love Florida so much and how there are ‘loads of other places in the world’ but you know what? Apart from Italy (and maybe Germany after watching a Vlog about Europa Park) there isn’t really anywhere else I’m that bothered about visiting and I don’t think they’ll live up to my expectations after being to Disney.Ā  I’m not a sit by the pool and drink type so a package holiday being stuck in a resort is my idea of hell I need things to do!!

I get asked why I don’t get bored being that I’ve been before – this will be trip number 6 – I don’t get bored because there’s always something new to see. In the space of 17 years I’ve seen loads of things come and go.Ā  Rides like Snow Whites Scary Adventures and Mr Toads Wild Ride and Toon Town where you could visit the houses of Minnie and Mickey Mouse have gone and are missed and then there are things like Alien which scarred me for life and I’m not sorry to see the back of.

Of course the big new thing is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which has now stretched over 2 parks instead of just the one that there was on my last trip.

Even in 3 years there has been loads of development and new stuff to check out this time. Aside from the WWOHP extension there’s also the New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom, the new Frozen show and new parades at Disney. As well as the developments at Downtown Disney. Ā  Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure now has a Raptor encounter and Universal Studios has Transformers and Springfield USA is open.

Seaworld has opened Empire of the Penguin and opened some new shows as well, not to mention the big opening of I-Drive 360 which comprises of the Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and Sealife Orlando.

With more changes and new rides/parks opening over the next few years – Avatarland at Animal Kingdom, the Star Wars expansion at Hollywood Studios (or whatever it will be called then…) and Universals Volcano Bay as well as the much talked about Nintendo Partnership at Universal.Ā  And then there’s the King Kong ride that I totally forgot about – I remember the original one!! You can never get bored of Orlando there’s always something new opening!

The other thing I love is how accessible it is and how completely suitable it is for anyone with a disability. Be it a mobility issue like me or more complex needs no matter where you go in Orlando they will do whatever they can to help you and have policies in place for everything you could think of. Nothing is a hassle to them and unlike some other holiday destinations – I’ve been put in upstairs rooms in hotels with no lift and been felt like I’m causing the problem when I’m unable to walk up the stairs!! Here any sort of Disability isn’t seen as a major problem and rather than make a fuss they just figure out how to help you rather than huffing about it!!

The one thing I haven’t done properly in Orlando is a water park – I did Aquatica last time but all I did was bob along in the lazy river – I’m curious to see how they are geared up for someone like me.Ā  There’s quite a few things I’m doing for the first time on this trip, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon which I’m really looking forward to. Discovery Cove which is something I’ve heard nothing but good things about (and that’s not just because all the food and drink is free), We’re doing a Penguin Encounter at Seaworld where we actually get to meet a real penguin – I’m a BIG fan of anywhere where I can cuddle any sort of animal, not sure the penguin will want me to cuddle it but I will give it a try.Ā  We have an Airboat ride as well which I won’t lie, I’m a little bit scared of. I don’t really like boats at the best of times – unless it’s a cruise ship – so being on something that doesn’t look that steady and surrounded by gators isn’t exactly filling me with excitement. I panic in a kayak so goodness knows what I’m going to be like on this.Ā  Also I’m finally getting to do a character breakfast – the bonus of taking kids – we’re doing both Chef Mickeys and Universals Superstar Breakfast (if the tickets get sorted in time) and also the Pirates Adventure Dinner Show. Last time I went to a dinner show I was ill with sunstroke and it wasn’t a pleasant experience so fingers crossed this one will be better.

The only thing that could make this trip even more perfect is that elusive booking at ‘Be Our Guest’…..

7 WEEKS!!! – HHN, getting fit and a bit more about My Disney Experience

7 weeks to go now, thats only 49 days and being as we’re in the middle of a mini heatwave making it feel a bit like I am in Orlando anyway I am even more excited about it if that’s at all possible!!

The fitness regime has started. Lets see if I can tone myself up and lose a few pounds in 7 weeks. I’ve joined a really lovely gym at the Solent Hotel, who more than cater for us people with disabilities. The majority of the classes are accessible and it’s a really comfortable place to be. They have a lot of Personal Trainers and fitness experts who are able to discuss your needs and come up with a programme that is not only helping you achieve your goal, whether it be just general fitness or like me trying to shed a bit of a cake shelf before a holiday but also catered to what you can do. I’m starting aquafit next week. I’ve always wanted to have a go at that I will no doubt look a bit mental but it’s all in an effort to get in that bikini!! Everyone there is really welcoming from the staff to the other members so it’s a really lovely place to be. Decent sized pool and jacuzzi and it’s not too busy either.Ā  They actually have a really cool offer on at the moment for a 4 week trial for Ā£55 well worth it if you’re looking for somewhere to go over the summer and a good taster to what it’s like. Solent Hotel and Spa

Also yesterday we were lucky enough at Voice FM to have the opportunity to have a chat with Universal Studios Creative & Entertainment Director Michael Aiello about Halloween Horror Nights and what’s coming up at Universal Studios, including King Kong and Volcano Bay. If you want to find out what he had to say tune in to the Breakfast Show next Wednesday 8th July 7-10am on Southamptons Voice FM. We tried to get some exclusives out of him but did we succeed….

I’m now in charge of the whole families bookings of Fast Passes and checking us into our hotel. I had a few issues with the booking numbers being wrong, best thing to do is call Disney if you have any issues they connected all mine up to my Disney account while I was on the phone. You need 2 references for MDE, your hotel booking ref and your ticket numbers. If you have booked a package with both it will know and you only need the one. I was really impressed with the Disney call centre they did exactly what I needed and really really quickly. If you have any questions they are happy to help – and I love that they always say ‘have a magical day’ set me up for the day that did šŸ™‚

 

No More Selfie Sticks… or Wet N Wild…

So Disney announced this week that they are extending their selfie stick ban to not only cover the rides but also now the parks as a whole and I can’t say I’m unhappy with the idea!!

Apart from the fact that quite honestly you look like a tit when you use one you have to think about the safety of others when you’re using one of those things. It’s bad enough having people who stop to look at stuff right in front of you but when you have a load of people just randomly stopping to take a selfie and it taking them a while to get it right it’s just a recipe for disaster. I for one am welcoming this ban and I’m hoping that everyone else will follow suit.

There are growing safety concerns for the use of the sticks on the fast moving rides and there have been numerous incidents of some of the rides being closed for periods of time because of this, much to the annoyance of other park guests because lets face it wait times at Disney are long enough without having the rides constantly stopped.

You can read a little more about it all Disney Ban on Selfie Sticks

We’re saying goodbye this year to something else in Orlando with the news that Wet N Wild is to close at the end of this year to make way for Universals Volcano Bay water park.

I had been wondering how long it would be before Universal opened their own water park and I have to say I am looking forward to seeing what they do with it. I visited Wet N Wild on my first trip in 1998 and to be honest I don’t remember a lot of it, I know it had some of the most extreme water rides because I wouldn’t go on them!! It’s definitely somewhere you need to visit if you have the chance before it closes.

There’s not a lot of info yet on Volcano Bay, needless to say it is based around a Volcano and I would imagine there will be something themed around it erupting, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of concept art yet but more information is expected to be announced in the coming months.