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Old 10 Sep 20, 01:47 PM  
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Andy C
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The Quest For Toad - The No Queues Trip 2019 - Day 11, to Universal

Day Eleven, and we're definitely on the final lap of our holiday. Mixed feelings:

- Excitement, because we're getting to get to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure - and the new Harry Potter rides and theming
- Contentment that THE PLAN is providing everything we'd hoped, with the bonus of THE QUEST having been achieved
- A touch of sadness that we're rapidly approaching the end.

However, when things are going well, live for now. Bear the future in mind, and plan for it, certainly, but never forget to live for the present. Wallow in it when it's going well.

We're wallowing.

We're also packing our cases for an overnight stay. Given that a stay in one of the three premium Universal hotels (Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, and Royal Pacific) nets you both early entry and unlimited Front Of Line passes - and this includes both the day you arrive and the day you checkout - we've booked in for the night.

Royal Pacific is very pleasant (we did this one before) and the least expensive of these, so we're packed up and off up the I4 at the crack of sparrows.

We're getting adventurous with breakfast. No, we're not doing something other than Denny's (I am told there are other breakfast options than Denny's that don't include 'eating something in the villa' or 'eating breakfast in your hotel', but this is obviously sheer madness), but we are doing a different Denny's. One considerably closer to Universal.

It's quite successful. Over breakfast, we discuss the Toad situation with The Lad. With the difficulty we had finding Toad, and bearing in mind that the Yoshi backpack broke the same day we got it and needed a sneaky swap with a replacement one, and that losing Toad or damaging him would be catastrophic, we suggest leaving Toad safely in our hotel room.

The Lad is initially not overly fond of the suggestion, but we couch it in terms of protecting and looking after little Toad and his protective instincts kick in. He agrees without a major argument.

We're at Royal Pacific by 9 am, which is nice going. We check in quickly. Our rooms are not, of course, ready, but they take our luggage to look after it and we get our FOL passes (and flowers)

On to the boat towards the parks.

And we're there nice and early.

Straight over towards Diagon Alley, around the park to the right.

The theming is superb.

And up towards Gringotts to go on the Escape from Gringotts.

And that dragon is breathing real fire.

Into the ride.

Truly excellent.

Out from there, a bit more milling around Diagon Alley (I take The Lad as we Childswap to allow DW on with the youngsters), and from there we're off to Men In Black.

Our FOL passes, while handy, don't actually seem to be saving all that much time; late August does seem to be pretty good for lower crowds at Universal, even on a weekend.

Around the lagoon and into the Simpsons area.

On to the Simpsons Ride (we want to get a ride that The Lad will go on - although, to be fair, he's been happy as Larry just enjoying all the theming and playing on a phone while he waits with one of us on a Childswap. He's very contented.

While the reduced crowds is a positive, the blasting heat is noticeable. Having learned from the KSC day, we're going overboard to ensure we're all well hydrated.

Wandering back further anti-clockwise, and The Lad will go on ET as well, but informs us that that's it apart from the Minions Ride (which he's been waiting to go on again for years).

Despicable Me it is, then. And here's where the FOL passes come in very handy, because it's pretty busy at this part of the park.

A quick go into Shrek 4-D is also successful. We take turns on Rip-Ride-Rockitt, which does seem to have got a touch less smooth since we were here six years earlier (not just me and my semi-circular canals; DW and DD1 insist the same).

We also nip into Revenge of the Mummy, taking advantage of our FoL passes to do it a couple of times each

Further around and we break for lunch in Finnegan's Bar. Which, while a touch pricey, is an excellent meal. And, frankly, the Potato and Onion Web, which counts as a starter, is delicious and ample for any non-American, in my view.

We see the Blues Brothers

And take in the parade

... before completing the circuit again, going all the way back around, and on Despicable Me several more times. The Lad loves it and the rest of us enjoy it as well. We do pop across to Transformers as well.

The afternoon is wearing on and we head back to the hotel for a break. We were planning on eating, but we accidentally had some icecream at Fortescue's during the parade and no-one's hungry.

A couple of hours off (and as we finally take our stuff to our rooms) and then we're heading back to the parks. We want to take in the evening fireworks thingy at Universal and try out Diagon Alley in the dark.

Butterbeers all round (the frozen ones are best):

And off to the spectacular.
Which, as well as fireworks, projects holograms onto leaping water.

... which are very hard to capture on camera. One of those things you have to experience.

At last, weary, we head back to the hotel.

The Lad is in bed within minutes, spark out and cuddling up to Toad. DD2 is also relaxing, while DW and myself, plus DD1 and DD1BF wander down to Jake's American Bar. A cocktail each. DD1 has a doughnut. It had cheese inside. Because of course it did.

I've rather gone over the top with today's report, and especially the picture - sorry. The reason is - well, I've got a confession to make. In our first trip, back in 2006, we didn't rate the Universal parks as highly as the Disney ones. In fact, with our one-week second trip in 2008, we skipped Universal completely.

Last time, in 2013, we tried it again and decided Universal had caught up. Today... we probably prefer them. They've got the same attention to detail and superb theming, and the Harry Potter stuff probably pushes them ahead.

We still love the Disney ones, of course. It's just that now we love these even more.

Edited at 09:56 AM.
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Old 11 Sep 20, 12:32 AM  
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Another good day had by all.
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Old 11 Sep 20, 10:47 AM  
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Another great day

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Old 12 Sep 20, 10:24 PM  
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Better than Disney? How very dare you? !
Great full day at Universal
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