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Old 26 Apr 15, 05:00 AM  
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scottishnellie's Reviews
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Here Now! first WDW family holiday - Day 12. Hard Rock Hotel, IOA, US & Hard Rock Cafe

Get yourself a cup of tea – this is a long one!

Today was a VERY early start. Up with alarms at 5:45 (though as usual I woke before it went off), showers, donned our Hogwarts / Gryffindor t-shirts, poured the kids from bed to the car via some clothes, and out into the cars at 6:20am with the Eastons right there with us.

This was one we had all been really looking forward to (mind you, every day has been a bit like that hasn't it?). Having read everything on the Dibb over the past 11 months since I booked my flights, this is probably the most significant tip I had picked up. Booking an overnight stay at HRH to get the Front Of The Line Passes (FOTL). For those who don't know Universal don't do fastpasses like Disney so you queue for everything unless you buy an express pass for the day which can vary in price from $40 upwards per person depending on your date. For our dates I priced them at $58pp per day. Those passes let you on each ride once via the express queue. If you book an overnight stay at HRH you get FOTL passes for both the day you check in AND the day you check out, for all members of your party. These passes let you ride via the express lane unlimited times, so they are even better than the express passes. You also get early entry to the Harry Potter area (of whichever park it is that day) for an hour before public opening.

So way back in May I searched and compared quotes for weeks until we got something I was happy with. Booking the room via hotels4u.com for £179.58, with a 5% discount code and 10.5% cashback from topcashback taking it to £152.69. The only thing was, by now the Eastons had decided to come with us and, given they were trying to stick to more of a budget having only been to Florida a few years before, I couldn't ask them to stump up for an extra, but it just would not be the same without them. As luck would have it Diannes birthday was coming up, so I decided to book a room for the 5 of them, give it to Dianne for her birthday and let them know that would be the family Christmas present too. So I got another room for them (using a different email and topcashback account so both tracked and paid) for not too much more than I paid for ours – Job done. The Eastons were delighted with this a gift, as lets face it, we never know what to buy each others Kids come Christmas anyway!

We arrived at HRH at 7am (as per the HRH expert, Bondi's instructions!) and headed for check-in. The guy on check in was lovely. Really friendly and helpful, although Ive never been checked in to a hotel by someone covered in facial piercings before! The rooms were not ready (as expected) so he explained where to drop our bags, and explained how to use the self serve kiosks, using our individual temporary room cards he was giving us, to get our FOTL passes to head to the parks. He told me early entry would be Islands of Adventure both days, and that early to Diagon Alley in US only happened in peak season, so had been at the height of Easter and wouldn't be again until June. So IOA would open at 8 and Universal Studios would open at 9 today. Headed to the kiosks and it was very simple and quick to print our passes, with only one 2 minute hiccup when Evans wouldn't work and Dianne had to get his room card re-programmed.

We headed back to the cars to get the bags to drop, and had a quick carpark coolbag breakfast which Andrew and Dianne had packed the night before. As usual if we feed the animals as close to going into the parks as possible, they last longer until the wallets need to come out! Plus we had poured them all into cars this morning without breakfast just for speed. Universal don't allow our big wheely coolbag but Andrew did take in a smaller soft sided one over his shoulder with some leftover snacks and water.

Dropped the bags, took some photos of the kids at the guitar fountain, and headed for the parks as it was now 7:50. The simplest way from the lobby is to head downstairs towards the Kitchen Restaurant, take the corridor saying Water-Taxi, through the double doors, round the garden and veer right at the water taxi dock. It's only a 4 or 5 min walk via a nice path so just as quick to walk as wait for the boat I felt.

Very exciting walking out of that wee path towards the twirly Universal ball!. Obligatory photos were taken and the kids enjoyed running around it in the cooling mist.

Walked into IOA at 8:05 and had a restroom break before heading to the back of the park towards The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Hogsmeade. The plan was to do the HP area then get the Hogwarts Express over to Universal when that started at 9am, spend the rest of the day there, then to do the reverse tomorrow. Well. I don't think I will forget walking into Hogsmeade in a hurry. The theming is just outstanding and I had a big stupid grin on my face the whole time. I practically started to skip when I saw Hannahs face!

Our first stop in Hogsmeade was Ollivanders wand shop having read on the Dibb how quickly that queues outside early entry for hotel guests. We waited 15 mins to get in but this must have been longer than usual during early entry as the attendant kept apologising that they only had one room running. They let 15-18 people at a time so the 9 of us made up over half the party but there were a bunch of kids in the other family too. I was really excited about this having read about it on the Dibb, and was genuinely considering buying an interactive wand for myself never mind the kids. I was bouncing around in the queue by the time we walked in. We were arranged around the room in a semi circle around the shop counter and the show started. Mr Ollivander looked around and his eyes settled on Hannah. Oh. My. God. Were we going to be that lucky? Oh Yes! He called her forward and Hannah was to be the child that chooses a wand, or rather, has a wand chose her. By this time I was frantically waving at Kevin to get the SLR out as no flashes are allowed but we stood a small chance of a photo working on that without the flash. It was brilliant. Just Brilliant. Hannah tried a few wands, casting spells under Mr Ollivanders instructions, setting lights and bells off all over the place, until THE wand was found and the whole 'wind through the hair' moment happened! Brilliant. Having read about this on the Dibb I knew Hannah would then have a limited edition wand that we would take through to the shop and buy, and having had every intention of buying them a wand each anyway, I was fine with this. Hannah was tickled pink at having been the child chosen and I could not believe our luck. We went through to the shop, and paid for Hannahs, and let Kieran choose his (he chose Harrys wand of course!). Both wands were interactive which means there are areas in the parks where you can swish the wand and make things happen like make it rain from an umbrella, make shop displays move around etc. You get a map in the wand box like an old treasure map showing where these things are but not what they are, so you still have to hunt around for them. Kieran was obsessed with this and was constantly checking the map and saying 'there's one here, I need to do a spell!' There are 9 in Hogsmeade and 25 in Diagon Alley.

We left Ollivanders at 8:45 so decided to queue to ride the Forbidden Journey (the HP rides are exempt from any express or FOTL passes so we knew we would still have to queue for these, thus doing them as early as possible). The ride time said 20mins and was quite accurate.. The ride was good. I liked the simulator bits more than the castle bits.

When we came off the skies were dark and we headed for the Hogwarts Express over to Universal Studios. It's here at the station you have to show your park tickets again to show you have bought park to park tickets to allow you to use the HE and into the other park. The wait time said 10m but we walked straight on. We all LOVED this. The special effects were brilliant, and again the 4 adults were as excited as the kids. The scenery on the way there showed it pouring with rain which was apt, as we got off to find it was indeed pouring with rain!

In the carriage of the Hogwarts Express!

We got off and out into the street to find the entrance to Diagon Alley. I loved that it was so well hidden like in the movie but we didn't linger too much as it was torrential. We walked up Diagon Alley, and the Gringotts Dragon breathed lovely warm fire over our heads! Gringotts said 30m wait and knowing this was not likely to reduce we got the bags into lockers and entered the queue. This was the first time we were to realise Universal are not quite as accurate with their queue times as Disney. We worked our way through the bank, loving the goblins and all the details. 30m later we had just passed the spot where you get your photo taken when we came to a halt and an announcement was made about having technical difficulties and how they were working to resolve it. 45m in we moved again, after dragging all the kids back to their feet from their spot on the floor. We finally went through to the area where you get in a lift to be taken down to the vaults. Here we hit another snag. Evan does not do lifts. He hates them, and immediately started trying to turn back to get out. We now know of course that the lift doesn't actually move and its all special effects, but us rookies did not know this and the attendant could not tell us in front of all the other kids so he was kindly trying to coax Evan to stay with Dianne. The rest of us disappeared into the lift thinking poor Dianne was going to miss it after queuing all that time. We exited the lift and along to the stairs, where Dianne and Evan suddenly appeared through a side door and people moved aside to let them catch up with us. The attendant had shown them through a back entrance once our group had moved on of course. So onwards and upwards. Literally. Round and round the staircase. Again the theming on this ride is fabulous, which was just as well given we were having so much time to appreciate it!

Kieran casting his spells. He loved this!

To be fair, when we got on we all loved it. The special effects were brilliant and it is one of Kierans favourites now. Pity about the queue. Thankfully this would be the last of the queues. From now on it was Front Of The Line all the way baby! We got off and it was still torrential rain, so doorways were packed with people sheltering. The difference today from Epcot day though, was that it was still warmish and there was no howling freezing wind. So we poncho'd up and got on with it, casting spells and enjoying Diagon Alley.

We moved from there outside towards Men In Black where it showed a 20m wait, and walked on with our passes. A good laugh this one.

When we came out the sun was shining so ponchos away and headed for the Simpsons. This also showed a 20m wait and we walked on. We moved round to E.T. which showed 10m. E.T. is definitely a bit tired now eh? Even the kids, who all love the movie, cast doubtful eyes at us when we came off asking if they liked it.

After a loo stop and admiring the train and car from Back to The Future, another of the kids favourite films, we headed for Transformers. I LOVED this. This was my favourite ride of the whole park in the end. This is my kind of ride. Lots of 3D Special effects and a bit of spinny roony. The skies were darkening again when we left.

We then went to the 1:30 show of Terminator. I find the whole standing in a room watching the pre-show film bit quite boring. My poor feet, who are suffering with the amount of walking we have done, do not like to stand still. I am fine if I keep moving, but asked to stand still I find myself hopping from foot to foot trying to stretch my ankles. I can not be the only one because if you look around there are loads of swaying folk who seem to be doing the same. When we got into the theatre and took our seats. I would love to tell you what I though of this but I can't because I fell asleep until the bit and the end where my chair jerked down. Kevin was even worse admitting he only woke up when Matthew tapped him on the arm and said 'Uncle Kevin. Its all done'. Came out to torrential rain again.

It was clearly time for a refuel so we walked over to Mels Diner where Kevin and Kieran had burgers, Hannah had Chicken tenders and fries, I had the chicken breast sandwich and did the usual of eating the filling and salad and giving my bread to the kids. Receipt is here somewhere. Think I might stop taking photos of burgers – they all look the same! We really took our time over lunch and by the time we came out the rain was off and it was starting to brighten again.

After some loo breaks we went to Rip Ride Rocket. Oh Goody. Another big dropping roller coaster. Yes that's it in the photo. The one where you climb up flat on your back then you are hurled over the top. And yes, I did do it. I did hate it. I wont do it again. So lets just file that away with Tower of Terror and Sheikra shall we? Emma was borderline for height on this one and was allowed on the first time, but not the second. She was in tears poor wee thing. Evan skipped this one but the other kids all loved it. By now it was 4:20, the sun was blazing and our little adventurers were feeling the early start. Although we only had 3 or 4 more rides to finish this park we all agreed to head back to Hard Rock Hotel for some cool down pool time. Not to mention the adults were ready to embrace the 'nobody has to drive tonight' bonus!

So walked back to the hotel, exchanged our temporary room cards for proper ones at reception, got the bags and up to our rooms, which were adjacent on the 5th floor. Really happy with the rooms. All nicely decorated, spotless, funky and great big beds. Could see the rollercoasters from the window. Kids explored and we took some quick photos before getting our swimmies on, creaming up and heading down to the pool.

Lifted some big white fluffy towels from the cabana (thanks to granmags for replying to my last minute panic post about this the night before!) and found 4 sunbeds next to the slide with a wee tunnel under it going straight to the bar. The kids all loved the pool, while I sampled the cocktails and the other 3 had beer. I've taken photos of the bar menu for those that love detail. All you who don't, sing to the tune of Dory 'Just keep scrolling, just keep scrolling...'

The kids were up and down the slide, in and out the jacuzzi, up at the DJ stage, you name it. Our 2 Go-Pro geeks also got to play with their new toys.

7.30pm we wrapped them up in towels and headed for the rooms to get ready for dinner. At this stage I realised I had forgot toothbrushes and toothpaste after we brushed this morning. Quick stop at reception and the lovely girls sorted me out with some Hard rock Dental kits. Everyone in this hotel is so helpful.

8.30pm we were out and walked over to Citywalk. We had decided in advance were were heading for Hard Rock Café as that's where the kids wanted. We asked for a table for 9 expecting a wait but were shown in within 5 minutes. Of course, having hammered such a full day this is where the kids started to flag. Emma was alseep before her pizza even arrived. Kieran ate his pizza, then ate Emmas pizza, then fell asleep smiling in his chair. Rollercoasters, pool, pizza, happy boy! Evan was tired but made it through his chicken ceasar salad. Hannah wolfed a massive Salmon fillet, same as Aunty Di, I had fajitas and the dads both had pulled pork burger things which they loved. Dianne and I had cocktails and Hannah had a huge Oreo cheesecake. Again, receipt is here somewhere. It was clear a wander round Citywalk was not on the cards, so instead the Eastons took turns carrying Emma while we woke Kieran to stagger home. He got a second wind on the way, much helped by the hilarity when his sister tried to cokey-back him. He weighs as much as her!

We fell into bed after agreeing tomorrow we would aim to start off where we finished today and head for US at around 9am.

Sorry this is so long. So much to share and I probably missed half of it to be honest.

Tomorrow – check out of HRH, finish Universal Studios and do IOA.

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Old 26 Apr 15, 05:17 AM  
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New Photo Added by scottishnellie - 26 Apr 15 5:17 AM.
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Old 26 Apr 15, 06:43 AM  
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Pleased you all still had a great day despite the changes in weather. Falling asleep during Terminator, disgraceful lol (my fav film of all time)
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Old 26 Apr 15, 06:47 AM  
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What a brilliant day! Reading your post has made me more excited about our stay. Your daughter is so lucky to have been chosen in Ollivanders 😎
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Old 26 Apr 15, 07:06 AM  
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Great day and lovely that Hannah was the chosen one in Ollivanders
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Old 26 Apr 15, 07:07 AM  
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That's was great reading. I've missed reading your report each day. What lovely friends you are, I can see they loved your gift to the family.

I'm getting more excited by the day for our holiday, reading your trippie is bringing it closer every day. I hope we manage to pack in to each day as much as you have.

Thanks again for sharing all your lovely memories with us.
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Old 26 Apr 15, 07:41 AM  
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Wow what a full day no wonder you all fell into your beds at the end of it lol. Thanks again for sharing, your trippie is my morning ritual to read with my first coffee of the day before Lilly gets up lol.
Such a good read having never done universal before and it being one of our main parks next year it was very helpful. Thanks for sharing about Hard Rock Cafe too as after enjoying the theming if planet hollywood last year we were thinking Hard Rock Cafe would be well worth a visit too. . . Me and Paul love all the memorabilia stuff. . . Relive our youth pre-kids lol, the food looks really nice and loving the guitar plates .
Looking forward to reading about iOA x
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Old 26 Apr 15, 09:01 AM  
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A really fantastic and full day. Love the poolside photos, and so happy for Hannah being chosen in Ollivanders. The HRH looks so good, can't wait for our stay there.
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Old 26 Apr 15, 09:03 AM  
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Brilliant report - looking forward for the next.
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Old 26 Apr 15, 09:29 AM  
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What a brilliant day - I've been looking forward to reading about your stay at US as we love it there

Brilliant the Hannah got chosen for a wand, how lucky!

I too fall asleep during The Terminator, and find the pre-show bit really boring. I realise it's a way of making the queuing time a bit more interesting, but I think I'll be skipping that one this year!

What no butter beer?! . Maybe tomorrow

Looking forward to your next report, really enjoying them
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