- Universal Studios is a lot like a poor man's Disneyworld. Don't get me wrong, we had a blast there, and the rides/attractions are as fun as anything at Disney. Mrs. Teebore's two favorite rides of probably the whole trip were at the Universal Parks: the Mummy ride and the Spider-Man ride. It's just seemed so clear to me that Universal was trying to emulate Disney in everything: their resort, their service, their City Walk area, their version of Fast Pass and meal plans, and coming real close, but just not quite making it.
- The first night in Florida we ate at Emeril's Tchoup Chop, one of the two "Emeril" brand restaurants at Universal. This one was part of one of the Universal hotels, very quiet and secluded, away from the craziness of City Walk. And we had one of, if not the best, meal of the whole trip there. I had a braised lamb shank with bleu cheese mashed potatoes. I love bleu cheese and am appalled I hadn't thought to put it in my mashed potatoes before. Great service, great food, great wine-a great way to spend our first honeymoon evening.
- One of the two Universal Parks is Islands of Adventure, a more ride-focused park than its Universal Studios counterpart. Of course, one of the "islands" is the Marvel Universe island, home to the awesome Spider-Man simulator adventure ride and easily my favorite of the different islands. I've been there before, but it always blows me away. Huge cutouts of Marvel characters (all drawn by Adam Kubert), all the buildings are Marvel themed (Murdock and Nelson Law Office, the Baxter Building, etc) and one of the souvenir shops even sells graphic novels and comics. Plus they have Marvel characters roaming the streets. Highlight of the trip for me? Getting my picture taken with Cyclops. That's right, Cyclops. We even pounded fists afterwards.
- I know that early October is a down time at the parks, but I was amazed at how quiet they were, especially at Universal. We walked right onto many of the rides-the five minute wait times they posted were basically how long it took to walk through all the turnstiles to get to the actual ride. I'd say we never waited more than 30 minutes for a ride, and that was only a half dozen times or so (Jaws, the Mummy ride, the jungle safari at Animal Kingdom, Space Mountain and the Great Movie Ride at MGM). Granted, we passed on the hour long wait for the Aerosmith roller coaster and avoided the hot new ride at Epcot (the test track-because we can drive a car anytime we want to). It was even a little sad, because both Universal and Disney put a lot of effort into entertaining you while you wait in line, and we both expressed sorrow at missing some of that stuff as we whizzed past it. But I'm not complaining too much.
- It's funny the stuff one watches in a hotel on vacation, the stuff one wouldn't ordinarily watch because at home, there are more channels and more options. One morning I found myself watching billards on ESPN. Not trick billards, just regular billards. Now, I have nothing against billards or even watching it, it's just not the kind of thing I'd watch at home because I could find something better to watch or do. But in a hotel, in the morning, with limited channels, well, that's the best I could find. Beats watching the View...
- At Epcot, we ate dinner at the Biergarten, in the German area of the World Showcase. It was an "all you care to eat" buffet of German food, and man, they had everything. Schnitzel, Rouladen, Veal, German Pot Roast, several wursts, sauerkrat, red cabbage, tons of salads and sausages and mustards and desserts and dinner rolls that were basically pretzels. I had four platefuls. Plus, a liter of beer for ten bucks. Outside in the parks, ten bucks'd buy you two 8 oz. Budweisers. It was a hell of a dinner.
- Mrs. Teebore felt that the revisions to the Pirates of the Carribean ride had too much Jack Sparrow added in. I disagreed; they yelled out his name once, he appeared in the background of two more scenes, and then said goodbye to you at the end of the ride. I was just happy they still sang that awesome "Yo Ho" song.
- I noticed that Disneyworld seems to gloss over a lot of their films from the late 60s-70s-80s (the Michael Eisner years, perhaps, my dad suggested). Throughout the parks, on rides or artwork or achitecture or restaurants, the classics (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Peter Pan) are well represented, as are the neo-classics from the late 80s/early 90s (Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King) and some of the newer stuff (Pocahontas, Tarzan, Lilo and Stitch). But that in-between stuff-Robin Hood, 101 Dalmations, The Rescuers, Sword and the Stone, Fox and the Hound, Great Mouse Detective-are more or less absent. You'd be hard pressed to even find a plush toy from one of those movies, and they have a lot of plush toys. (Jungle Book was around, but that was mainly just because it came out on DVD the week we were there).
- So Fast Pass kind of sucks. At MGM, the wait for the Aerosmith roller coaster was an hour, so we thought, what the hell, lets try this fast pass thing. So we got our passes at 11:15 and were told to return between one and two. Okay, no biggie. We moved on, and tried to catch the 11:30 Indiana Jones stunt show. But it was standing room only (people must like that one earlier in the day-later, we caught the last show around four and it never filled all the way up). Anyways, we figured we'd grab a fast pass for the next show, thinking we'd need it, and then move on to Star Tours and get a fast pass there. Well, it turns out you can only have one fast pass at a time, even if it's for another ride (also turned out we didn't need one for Star Tours-walked right past the animatronic C-3PO and R2-D2 and onto the ride). So until 12:55, we couldn't get another fast pass for anything. Whatever, we moved on. But when the time when we could redeem our fast pass arrived, we were on the opposite side of the park from the Aerosmith roller coaster. So it was either hike across the park or skip it and keep moving along in the route we were on. We decided to skip it. Look, I'm sure some people love fast pass, and I'm sure it can work great. But we just felt like it put too much of a schedule on us, forced us to keep checking our watches, and dictated what we did and when we did it too much for us.
- Disney has this weird sort of control over everything they do (I know, duh, right?). It's at times both scary and kind of comforting. I mean, those people in costume that wander around the parks for pictures and autographs? They don't wander anymore; now they have scheduled appearances, the better for parents to plan their day and make sure their child doesn't miss their favorite. We even joked that Disney was probably capable of controlling the weather around the parks, and when it rained, it was just because they wanted to spike sales in the gift shops on Disney umbrellas and ponchos (if so, jokes on them-we just waited out the rain!).
- So the cruise was loads of fun-nice and relaxing, with tons of food. However, the cruise staff (meaning the people onboard who are basically in charge of the entertainment) were really annoying. Whenever they got on a stage, anywhere, they yelled into the mic and told people what to do. A "party" to them meant playing music and having a cruise staff member yell out dance instructions. "Everybody twist! Okay, throw your hands up!" Everyone rock and roll! Who's not rock and rolling!?!" It was all very summer camp-ish, which is fine for events involving the kids, but at eleven at night in the adults only nightclub? Just shut up. We'll dance when we want, how we want, or not at all. Take a chill pill already.
- Apparently maritime law states that all lifeboats must be orange and white. Except on Disney ships, where the lifeboats are yellow (so as not to clash with the overall color scheme). Also, maritime law says that fireworks cannot be launched from a moving ship. Except a Disney ship (remember what I said above about control?). Now, I'm curious how they pulled that off. I mean, yeah, Disney has the money to pass around some bribes, but that just seems somehow crude, inelegant, for Disney. One theory we had onboard regarding the fireworks was that it's only illegal to launch certain colors of fireworks, and then Disney somehow bought the rights to those exempted colors, making them "Disney colors" so that effectively, only Disney ships could launch fireworks from a moving ship. But I am curious how that arrangement came about.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
A Few Thoughts About My Honeymoon
Get yer minds out of the gutters, people...