Tag Archives: Florida

Travelog: Orlando and Bahamas, Day 6, Universal studio

To go or not to go…

When you have only 2 days to spend in Orlando with mind-numbing options to choose from, “to be or not to be” became stale and all you want your Shakespearean mind to ponder on “where to go and where not to go” with ease and also without soliloquy.

In short, I had to choose from 2 amusement theme parks of Universal ( Island of adventure and Universal studio), 1 water park of Universal (Volcano Bay), 4 theme parks of Disney (Magical kingdom, Animal kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood studios), 2 water parks of Disney world ( Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard beach) along with sea world, Discovery cove, LEGOLand and much much more.

It was obvious I had to plan again if I want to cover everything what Orlando, FL had on offer. Major dilemma was which park to visit; either Universal or Disney world. And again which among them. I choose to ride on both camels; against advisory, however uncomfortable it sounds.

Things to do (mandatory): Check your interest. All the details of the rides along with you-tube videos available on web. Most types of good rides are split in terms of Universal studio and Island of adventure. You can also do both in one day with single-minded obsession, if you can conjure up enough energy and stamina.

I choose to do only one park per day. First was Island of adventure from Universal. In terms of theme of rides, Universal studio and Island of adventure has some differences but core mechanics are almost same e.g. Spider man and MIB ride are different but both share same digital core “fun”.

Monetary note: Based on day of visit, daily ticket fare can vary buy still expect around $130-150 per park per person.
Things to remember: Most hotels nearby provides shuttle services to both Universal studio and Disney world. It is advisable to utilize them. Traffic could become one of the energy draining factor.

As shown in below map, Island of adventure divided into various sections, each having unique theme. Let’s see what was hit and what missed section-wise.

Entrance

Island of adventure is adorned with peppy and colorful adventure theme such as 80’s and 90’s Spielberg movies. Most of them also had in-built shops and restaurants apart from beautifully decorated facade.

Marvel Super Hero Island

It boasts few of the good scary rides. Superhero fans are in for a treat considering beautifully designed streets. It gave impression of being amidst fight between various marvel heroes and villains. Rides also corroborate the theme by putting g force as core entertaining mechanic. Following were major highlights….

The Incredible Hulk coaster: before you prepare yourself mentally, you are forced out at high speed, “twisted”, turned upside down, fogged and mist-sprayed without any notion of how many times.

Doctor Doom’s Fearfall: Another adult addition which can make you scream out your guts.

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man: most unexpectedly amazing digital ride. Effects were cool and immersion was fantastic.

Things to consider: Most adult ride has conveniently placed locker system. Small lockers are free but can not hold backpacks. Big locker can cost you $2.

Toon Lagoon

Another visually arresting theme where streets are peppered with everything cartoon themed. Loved the idea of floating speech bubbles conveniently scattered for in cartoon world. Following were major highlights….

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls: Best water based ride of the park. Period.

Comic Strip Cafe: If you are into comics and also into coffee (which I think is serene combination), it’s always treat to spend sometime, observing passers-by in the cartoon land sipping caffeine to prepare for further sections of the park.

Skull Island: Region of Kong

Only ride in the section based on digital effects has exquisite production value but not enough “wow” factor. BTW those dimly lit Kong cave and corridor where you had to spend more time waiting than been in the ride was peculiar visage in itself. This Kong is based on Peter Jackson’ King Kong.

Jurassic Park

It never gets old to be in Spielberg’s Jurassic “era”. Core element is animatronics and it pays off in more “believing” effects than its digital counterpart. Following were major highlights….

Jurassic Park River Adventure: is water based short but major ride of this section. Story telling is nicely accomplished and also had one hell of a satisfying “climax”.

Jurassic Park Discovery Center: This is more appealing to those who has Jurassic Park (1993) in their all time favorite movie list (like me). You can chomp off your food observing T-Rex skeleton replica similarly poised as was in the movie.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade

Dreams come true for Potter fans. Excellently “production designed” Potter town is clad in “snow” (even in Florida April heat) along with famous wand shop and lot many Potter tidbits.

Things to consider: Die-hard fans of Harry Potter has no other option but to buy tickets of both parks as very famous Hogwarts Express experience needs tickets of both park.

The Lost Continent

Hues of yellow dominating this more of middle-east fairy adventure styled section hosting very impressive Poseidon statue. Interactive theater style show “Poseidon’s Fury” has some good live effects (especially water tunnel) but otherwise no other special mention.

Seuss Landing

If you know Seuss, you know how pink, purple, orange, yellow and other similar kid attention grabbing colors and its various shades the section dipped in. It’s the most “sugar sweet” , candy-coated part for your child.

All in all, visiting Island of Adventure over Universal studio had never left us with feeling of “missing out” too much or kind of big mistake. It was fun and day well spent.

Date of Visit: 12-Apr-2019

Previously on Carnival cruise and Bahamas: Day 1Day 2Day 3, Day 4, Day 5

Travelog: Orlando and Bahamas, Day 5, Kennedy Space Center

“Farewell to Space”

After leisurely “bobbing” on serene Atlantic for 3 days and 4 nights on cruise Carnival, occasionally heading off to islands of Nassau and Freeport, it was time to disembark. Early morning on the last day brought not so surprising drizzle which was very much welcome anticipating hot and humid Orlando weather, and surprise in form of origami out of beach towel on Carnival deck while going for breakfast. Whole top deck benches around pool and bars were occupied with curious little “audiences”.

Things to do: Pack your belongings very much in advance and be ready for your time slot. Each deck has allotted time slot which will be announced on PA. Moving out during your time slot will reduce hustle and bustle considerably. And it is quick.
Things to remember: Double check your stateroom for any "miss-outs". Have your passport and other identity documents handy. H1B work permit visa holders must have valid stamping. Seek out any further instructions on products which needs to be declared for custom.

Once successfully re-entered on US turf, we had almost whole day ahead of us to acclimatise Orlando after sunny, sandy beaches. After nature, we decided to take it up one notch up to science and technology and space mimicking humankind history in short span by visiting Kennedy space center.

Things to do: Kennedy space center is nearby cape Canaveral port; almost 24-25 miles. Easy to pay visit before going to proper Orlando nearby all amusement parks. There are many rental car options available at port itself. Also there are shuttle services provided by nearby hotels if you have reservations. Cab options are rare and expensive.

Kennedy space center is evidently something out of some Hollywood set on space opera. Replicas of various launch rockets adorning the horizon, it also adorned various space age symbolism almost conveniently placed for photo lovers.

Monetary note: Kennedy space center will cost you around $57 per person excluding any live launch observation.
Things to do: Check out any planned launch of space X or others. It will cost extra to be spectator of such event but might worth to see the launch (and land when it's spaceX vehicle) .

Apart from various 3D shows, plethora of space vehicle replicas scattered all over, future Mars program related info-games and other paraphernalia , best part of the visit was to witness Saturn V in its original size and capacity along with its science and intricacies on display at Apollo Saturn V center. NASA’s rocket assembly building was also one of the unique attraction during the included space center bus ride.

All in all it was something which we might not see in our lifetime. And hence worth to see.

We drove through congealing traffic towards our hotel in heart of Orlando from where we planned to “launch” our next 2 day trip towards Universal studio as well as Disney.

Previously on Carnival cruise and Bahamas: Day 1Day 2Day 3, Day 4

Travelog: Orlando & Bahamas, Day 4, Freeport

Freeport island of Bahamas represents the unlikable side of otherwise dreamy summer vacation spot; industrialization. It has more of “official” feel to it. Apart from rundown hotel buildings which went bankrupt, this second largest populated island of Bahamas houses factories of oil refining, cement, salt, pharmaceutical and steel pipe manufacturing.

We have pre-booked excursion; close encounter with dolphins. Bottle-nos dolphins are very playful mammals. Though transport to the dolphin pens took almost more then an hour which consisted of first half-n-hour drive in van to designated port and then more 20-30 minutes by small motor boat, all transport paid off with ample amount of close interaction time with dolphins.

There was nothing attractive apart from excursions and few local market places. Once returned back to our cruise Carnival, we had no other option but to leisurely participate as audience to last night’s various attractions. There was pleasing farewell surprise at our daily dinner restaurant when suddenly all catering cruise staff started singing and tapping to melodious songs.

Next day early morning we had to prepare for disembarking back to Orlando. And plan judiciously for three more days in Orlando, Florida.

Things-to-do: Get everything ready at night for next day landing. Do plan out early breakfast considering your time-slot. Pay attention to public announcement to know off-loading time slot for your deck well in advance.

Previously on Carnival cruise and Bahamas: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

Plan for remaining 3 days: Day 0

Travelog: Orlando and Bahamas, Day 2 – On sea

Fun day at sea….

… is how day 2 defined by our choice of cruise, Carnival.

Fun schedule of all days on Carnival

Strikingly blue sky, dazzlingly reflected on deep blue to turquoise water, stretching beyond infinity was as meditative as sailing on ship could conjure up; until that serene experience interrupted by occasional materialistic on-board activities. You will realize the true power of sea as nature when pathetically labeled “best camera” digital devices failed to capture seamless transitions of all the shades of blue. Also when your eyes failed to make sense of the end of stretching sea while it trying to make sense of sliver of a line called horizon where two blues of sky and sea handshake. Moment like this where the definition of infinity might have created or better infinity itself is conceived.

Day 2 was started off with hefty breakfast. Frolicking on deck pools and slides while one of the cruise host conducting participatory games was making the whole ship comes alive as collective organism. Carnival also had adult retreat areas for those who wants to cuddle up out of all the commotion, appropriately supplied with lay-downs.

Things-to-note: Professional photographer scattered everywhere on the major cruise events and on the deck were eager to capture you randomly. Posing is free. See how it all came out on their designated pictures wall.

After satisfied with our late morning to noon desk excursion and once tanning started to settle in ferociously, we had to get down to seclusion in our stateroom and be prepared for evening extravaganza.

Evening of the 2nd day on cruise wanted us to don our best attires and be presented at designated shoot-outs scattered in elegant main foyer as well as main deck. Cruise’s professional photographers tried to capture those opulent moments in stills.

Things-to-do: Always carry at least one of your best formal attire; suits for men and gowns or elegant tops, dresses for ladies. It will pay off once you see how your photographs came out on digital wall (And you need to pay more for physical copy)

Carnival had evening live shows planned for all of the evenings which we used to attend on regular basis at their superbly decorated amphitheater. Shows were all nice and mesmerizing with good visual and musical mixture. After dinner, we attended late night adult comedy shows which were actually quite funny and then retired for next day’s port of call early morning.

Things-to-note: Carnival had sumptuous lunch buffet options and delicious dinner variety. Even more then expected vegan options available for my vegan friends. One Indian dish also available daily with complementary "papad"(Indian side delicacy) and pickle for my Indian friends.

Previously on Carnival cruise and Bahamas: Day 1, Day 0

Travelog: Orlando and Bahamas, Day 1 – Boarding

Traveling light is an understatement.

Above golden truth stated at Allegiant website has notoriously played it’s sinister part for us. We had chosen to fly to Orlando considering the fact that we had cheap flight options available during first two weeks of April. Given the fact that spring holidays were over in diminishing March, choosing April has its advantages in terms of flight options. But…

Caution 1: Manage you luggage well. Try to plan in advance and register number of luggages from Allegiant website. It will cost $10 less than at the airport. Allegiant has check-in baggage restricted to 40 lbs, cabin baggage to 20 lbs and only one free limited size personal belonging.

Things to remember 1: Allegiant has some really cheap options if there are no traveling reservations on day or time. We got flight tickets under $80 per person, to and fro. Check the calendar early on Allegiant website.

Caution 2: All Allegiant flights arrive at Sanford airport which is 60-70 miles away from port Canaveral and 50-60 miles to park area of Orlando.

Things-to-do: Do the on-line check-in which will be open 24 hours prior to departure.

I found Orlando flight conveniently “available” in the morning around 9:00 AM. Though had to settle up with returning flight at early 6:00 AM in the morning.

Once landed at Sanford, drive to port Canaveral was dotted with pleasant palm variants along the road with intermittent bright blue water bodies. Orlando was in full bloom at the start of summer.

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We choose Carnival as our 4 night cruise expedition, leaving from port Canaveral to Nassau to Freeport and back at the port. There are various other cruise options available from Orlando or Miami other than Carnival. Aligning of the boarding date with other traveling plan, availability of the appropriate stateroom and budget were few of the major factors for selecting Carnival. Boarding the cruise was easy and more comfortable then boarding flight. Everything was arranged and planned out by cruise management beautifully.

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Things-to-remember 2: Always carry passports. No need for Bahamas visa for valid US citizens provided they have green-card or valid stamped work visa.

Caution 3: select stateroom not too aft or too fore and at least at or above deck 4 if you have sea sickness. We had our stateroom at deck 6 where it was almost standstill all the time and won’t  have any feeling of traveling on-board the ship. Choose as per your capacity of fulfilling the sea travel.

Things-to-do: Complete on-line pre-requisites on cruise’s website and set up your account in advance. On cruise, all you need is cruise access card which will also act as on-board currency for everything. On the last day, you will get receipt of all your spendings which has been debited from your linked credit card.

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Settling down immediately after securing our room with tropical drinks, it was all about getting your way around the ship and be familiar with cruise’s mandatory emergency security briefing. Deck party has started once cruise raised the anchor. Once the tethering’s were severed, so as the connection with other outer world.  Next 4 days, it was all about sun decked pools, beach-wear and sunglasses, various tropical alcoholic drinks in hot colors and tiny umbrellas perched atop, full-volume DJ’s, group dance and all the other hosting of hilarious fun activities, live shows, live musics and much more. Party has just started……..

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Travelog: Orlando and Bahamas, Day 0

Summer is coming

Oncoming spring of 2019 sprouted fresh buds of desires for long travel after prolonged dormant winter here in Indianapolis. It was easy choice when you think of fleeing the cold; east coast or west coast. As west coast was partially ( very much partially, in fact) touch-based in winter of 2017, choice has befallen on east coast this time. And destination was Orlando, Florida.

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There was lot to do and act upon when you sit down with intension of finalizing itinerary for Orlando which will result in less hectic and more relaxing travel plan. In fact, I realized that “relaxing” was not an option when covering Orlando with single-minded objective of vacationing. As if all theme parks of Disneyland and Universal Studio are not enough, you have Sea world, Miami, Key west and other attractions on your plate considering vicinity of the Tempa and Miami to Orlando. I had already planned to avail 6-7 days for the trip. Also I was aware of the fact that covering everything without any rest day would mean unnecessary exhaustion of monetary aspect as well as of vacation itself. Hence I settled down with below itinerary for my 7 day excursion to Orlando, Florida.

Day 1: Flying to Sanford from Indianapolis. Boarding the cruise for Bahamas from port Canaveral.

Cruise was primary factor of my whole Orlando visit. I chose 4 nights Bahamas Carnival cruise. More on that in next travelogue.

Day 2: Fun day on the ship.

Day 3: Visiting Nassau, capital of Bahamas.

Day 4: Port of call, Freeport. Another Bahamas island.

Day 5: Landing back to port Canaveral, Orlando. Visit to Kennedy space center.

Day 6: Visiting one park of Universal studio. Island of Adventure in my case.

Day 7: Visiting one park of Disneyland. Magical Kingdom in my case.

I’ll try to separate each day into travel blog each, encompassing various aspects such as prerequisites, to-do-list, not-to-do-list, expenses, things to carry, how, what and why of whatever I can think of along with lots of photos.

Your mileage and stretch can wary. So adopt whatever feel like doable for you if you are referring to my travelogue. Else enjoy the read.

PS: In the process, I will try to answer one of the universally fundamental question which was bothering humankind from day immemorial; which theme park is better, Disneyland or Universal studio ? I might not be in best position but I had my enough fill of rituals to move towards enlightenment. I will surely attain complete truth after more visits.