USA '14 – Day 12 – Two park blow out

As we get ever closer to the end of the holiday the realisation starts to dawn that you only have so many trips to the parks left and so there is much debate about what we should do when. We are also haunted by the thought that this will be the last time that we are coming this way, although that will make family and friends laugh given we have said that every time we come here! Anyway, all this leads to us packing in two parks into a single day – today it was Universal and Animal Kingdom.

At Universal we set out to do some of the rides that we hadn’t been able to previously, in particular the Despicable Me themed ride. The Fastpass system at Universal is an additional cost that we didn’t want to add so we lined up. This ride is the most popular in the park and meant a wait of over an hour for something that only lasted less than five minutes and was, in my opinion, not that great – good for small kids who love the film I guess.

Our other “target” was to go back onto the Transformers ride as we had all enjoyed it so much the first time we were in the park. Our last visit it was shut and that also proved to be the case today so it is clearly not the most reliable of rides. So it was off to do the Simpsons once again.

There is a very clear difference between the Universal and Disney parks and that is in the “cast members” that man the attractions, shops and restaurants. Disney feels magical because the people that work there are engaged, well trained and knowledgable. You get the sense that Universal is staffed by those that couldn’t make the grade to get a job as a Disney cast member. It’s not that they are bad it’s just that they are noticeably not as good. You find groups of them standing around chatting – something that you never see at Disney. Also, and this is going to seem a really trivial point, but in order to load people onto rides there are inevitably queues and the management of these as you get to the very front is done by putting parties into very short lines, typically six people. At Disney they do this seamlessly while at Universal the use of a clipboard and pencil is required.

Does any of this matter? No, not really, it doesn’t affect our enjoyment of the ride itself but it does show the lengths that Disney goes to ensure that everyone has a great time. It works.

20140412-100149.jpgLate afternoon we went off to Animal Kingdom and this is where the Fastpass+ system really does work well. As previously explained you can now book your Fasspasses in advance, up to two months in fact, on the web or mobile app. Knowing that we were coming here tonight we pre-booked our passes for the rides we wanted. Previously, under the old system, that would have been impossible as all the Fastpasses would have gone much earlier in the day. This meant that we were able to get a late afternoon slot for the safari and it being much later we saw many more animals than we had previously. We did Dinosaur and Primeval Whirl one more time and Mat won a couple of soft toys on the fair.

Having done all that we went on to Downtown Disney where we had a reservation at Planet Hollywood. I must be getting old as boy was it noisy, certainly not the place for a quiet conversation. Still the food was ok and it was a good end to a busy day.