universal orlando resort - islands of adventure

We woke up early and started walking to Universal Orlando Resort. Our hotel did offer free shuttle, but the timing wasn’t good. Departs 11:55 AM and returns 8:00 PM. Who would want to go to a theme park that late and return that early? Not me!

It was a nice morning walk, passing by some beautiful scenery.

Almost there…

…and we arrived! This is Universal CityWalk, just outside of the theme parks. 

Similar to WDW, UOR consists of several theme parks. This time around, we opted to go to Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Why? Because I read Sis Nazuha’s blog and she put lots of pictures of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the biggest attraction at Islands of Adventure. Being a Harry Potter fan, I gotta see it for myself!

The iconic lighthouse of Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

Passing by Seuss Landing and its colorful Grinchmas deco.

Hogsmeade, here I come!

It was a snowy December in Hogsmeade, yet we were all wearing tropical :-D

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 

The line to get inside was super duper long! Even though we got Universal Express pass, it was of no use here. The T&C specifically mentioned that we couldn’t use the pass at several major attractions, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was one of it. So we patiently lined up for nearly an hour. But boy, it was worth it! The most amazing 3D ride I had ever experienced!

After the ride, my nausea started to kick in. Learning from previous experience at Movie World, I made a point to rest between rides. Fiza brought a bunch of ginger pills to prevent motion sickness, but my condition was rather severe. I took 4 pills yet still felt dizzy. So I told Fiza let’s alternate between thrill rides and live shows, so I could have some time to recover.

The Incredible Hulk Coaster from afar. Even looking at it made me nauseous.

The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad. Elaborate stage. Magnificent stunts.

Poseidon’s Fury. The show was indoor. Great effects – sound, water and 3D.

Toon Lagoon, captured while riding The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!

One of the many cute shops at Toon Lagoon.

Arghhh!!!

Since it was Christmas season, the most popular attraction at that time was The Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular show. The line was even longer than Harry Potter! But the good thing was they only let a certain number of people to line up for each show time. So if the line was full, they would close the entrance and you would have to come again for the next show time. We went there twice before we could even get the chance to join the queue. And the wait in the line took nearly two hours! Yet again, it was worth it!

The Grinch in action!

We saved all the water rides to the end of the day, as we wouldn’t want to go around the park soaking from head to toe. Two important things to wear on water rides: flip flops and poncho. Thanks to Fiza’s prior experience as Universal Studios Singapore, we came to Universal Orlando Resort fully prepared. So after enjoying the dry attractions, we put on our gears and…

…splashed into the watery adventure!

There were three water rides at Islands of Adventure: Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls (pictured above), Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges and Jurassic Park River Adventure. All of them got us wet. But because we had our ponchos on, the drench was limited to our thighs and below, so it wasn’t bad at all.

A pic of the infamous globe before leaving UOR.

Stopped by HRC at Universal CityWalk to grab some souvenirs.

Universal Studios Florida, another theme park within UOR.

Walking back to the hotel after a nauseating, wet, yet awesomely fun filled day!

disney done, next universal

It was time to leave WDW and move to another hotel (a much cheaper one) near Universal Orlando Resort about 20 km away. Before leaving, we had breakfast at the food court, bought some souvenirs at the official store, Fiza did her laundry (I already did mine the night before), then we went around taking pictures of the beautiful resort where we stayed for the past 3 days.

While waiting for Fiza to finish doing her laundry, I saw this in the sky <3

Mighty Ducks wing, where we stayed. Our room was at the end of the ground floor.

Goofy the goalkeeper. This was the poolside. Those “locker rooms” were actually changing rooms and laundry room.

Dalmatian wing.

Oh mi amor!

Now give me a kiss :-*

Fantasia wing.

In the movie, Mickey casted a spell and the broom came to life.

Love Bug wing.

And the winner is…

…Herbie, of course!

Erm... Batting eyelashes... Shy...

The swimming pool at Fantasia wing.

Dancing at the poolside with Disney cast members leading the steps.

Now let’s enter the resort’s main block.

The spacious lobby, complete with screening area so kids could watch Disney movies while parents were busy checking in/out.

The food court. Good selection of meals. Affordable too.

The concierge. Get your taxi here.

If you need help with your luggage, these carts would carry them for you.

We checked out and took a taxi straight to our next hotel. The driver was from Senegal and spoke fluent French. Our taxi passed by Downtown Disney, which we didn’t have time to visit. The driver said we should have gone there while we were at WDW, because there were free shuttles from our resort to Downtown Disney. Ouch! It’s okay, I do plan to visit WDW again one day. The next time, I plan to visit other theme parks. In between, I will surely go to Downtown Disney!

The driver asked if we were planning to go to Universal Orlando Resort. Of course we were, we just had to find out which bus to take to get there. The driver said, “No need, it’s very near to your hotel, you can just walk. I’ll show you the way.” He also assured us that it was safe to walk, day and night, because it was a tourist area and cops were always patrolling around. Excellent!

We checked in and dropped our bags. Fiza didn’t feel well, so she opted to stay in. I decided to go out by myself, so I took I-Ride trolley from the hotel to the nearest factory outlet just 3 km away.

Waiting for I-Ride trolley. The weather was superb!

Inside the trolley. USD 2 per ride.

Orlando Premium Outlets – International Drive. My second outlet spree in 3 days!

Since I was there alone, better not get lost.

By the time I took the trolley back to the hotel, it was already dark. No surprise there, eh? ;-)

walt disney world - magic kingdom

Time to party with Mickey and friends! We woke up early and took Disney’s free shuttle from the resort to the Magic Kingdom. By the way, WDW had several huge theme parks. Since it was our first time there and we only had one full day to spend, we chose to the most popular one. If we wanted to visit all the parks, we would have to spend an entire week.

So let the memories begin!

One couldn’t claim to have visited Magic Kingdom without this pic :-D

First order of the day was to get our caffeine fix. The baristas uniforms were so cute.

Sipping our coffee while strategizing our visit.

There were so many rides and games and shows at the Magic Kingdom, we had to plan our day carefully. We already installed Disney’s app into our phones before coming here. It was really useful as we could do our Fast Pass bookings way in advance. We were entitled to use Fast Pass for 3 attractions only, so we chose Space Mountain, Pirates of Caribbean and Haunted Mansion. For the rest of the attractions we had to line up with the crowd, so need a game plan so that we wouldn’t waste too much time waiting.

The first attraction of choice: Monsters Inc Laugh Floor.

I’m a huge fan of Monster Inc. HUGE! This attraction to me was a must visit. Seeing the monsters communicating with the audience ala stand-up comedy was really fun. I was so amazed by the entire thing was done. Their facial expressions, their gestures, their interactions with the crowd… everything was live and spontaneous, yet all in 3D! It was as if the monsters had come to life!

Oh yes they are!

Onboard the People Mover that went around Tomorrowland.

Cinderella Castle. Ever so pretty.

The stepsisters didn’t look so mean today.

Flying with Goofy’s Barnstomer roller coaster!

This old style choo choo train took us touring around WDW. A good way to avoid walking.

All hail to the marching band!

The daytime parade.

See that lady in vest? She was the crowd patrol. She did her job while dancing along with the music. Groovy!

Exploring the wilderness with the Jungle Cruise.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was how crowded the park could get on a Saturday.

Taking a quick break while enjoying ice cream sandwich.

How the Magic Band works? Just tap and go.

The evening parade.

As it was holiday season, we bought additional tickets to watch Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on the same night. Since we would be staying late, we decided to have dinner at the park. So we checked the Disney app on our phones for a place to eat, but to our horror all our preferred restaurants were fully booked! The only one with a table was Plaza Restaurant that served sandwiches. Well, better than nothing.

Cinderella Castle looking oh so beautiful at night!

We quickly booked a spot near the castle to watch Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, as we knew the crowd would build up in no time. I was a bit confused as nobody came to check our party tickets. How would they know if everyone sitting here had tickets?

Suddenly a staff member came and shouted, “Wristbands! Wristbands! Can I see your wristbands?” Fiza and I showed our Magic Bands. The lady said no, she needed to see our party wristbands. We showed her our tickets. She told us to go to the Rose Garden to claim our wristbands.

I was a bit upset because we already secured a good spot, now we had to leave it to get the wristbands. And the worst part was the ticket didn’t mention anything about collecting special wristbands for the party. If only we knew about them beforehand, we would surely collect them much earlier.

Party wristband at the top. Magic Band at the bottom.

We went back to the stage. As we sat down, we could hear others complaining. How could the staffs be sure that everybody had wristbands? There were so many people scattered everywhere, they couldn’t possibly check each person. The stage area wasn’t even cordoned, thus it was very easy for those without wristbands to sneak in. It made me wonder if it was worthy to buy the extra ticket after all. Oh well, worthy or not, it was the right thing to do as we had all the intentions to join the party.

The gang entered the stage. It was time for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!

The party started off with musical performances. Then there was a special Christmas themed parade. The area around Main Street was beautifully decorated with Christmas lights. There was even artificial snow to add to the holiday mood.

The huge Christmas tree.

See the snowflakes flying from the roofs on the right?

The castle then became the screen of a wonderful show…

…and of course, an incredible fireworks display as the hightlight of the night.

After the fireworks, we stayed around for a bit to see what else the party had to offer. Soon we found out that they were just repeats of the shows that we watched earlier. So we headed to the shops to grab some souvenirs before catching the shuttle bus back to the resort.

All in all, it was a long and fun day at the Magic Kingdom. And it was indeed, magical!