Well, here it goes.. a very bittersweet end, though a long post, to a wonderful time with my husband, my children and my friends, who became like family. 😦
March 27- Disembarking a boat is super easy, it’s basically a waiting game for when they tell you to get out. The night before you are to leave you receive disembarking paperwork and you’re instructed to leave your luggage outside your cabin’s door. Within the disembarking paperwork you’ll find mail about your journey, numbered/colored luggage tags and anything else they want to notify you about. The colored and numbered tags are on a guide list on the back of the paperwork, it details what time you are to get off the boat. The list is long! Our luggage tags were PURPLE 5, and our friends had something like PURPLE 3 or 4. Which meant we were to get off the boat at 10:30AM, they were to get off a little earlier than us. At your designated time you are to meet in the Symphony restaurant to wait for the crew to let you know you are ready to go.
We hung out after breakfast in the Horizon Cafe to pass some time and fully wake up. When it was around our friends’ time to go, we headed to the meeting point together and were allowed to leave all together even though it wasn’t our designated time. When you get off the boat all the luggage is in the terminal sorted by your luggage tag color. So we snagged our bags from the marked luggage line up and went to wait for our car rental shuttle. WHICH FELT LIKE IT TOOK FOREVER!
Once we got acclimated into our rental cars, an hour or so later..no joke, we made our way to Orlando. It wasn’t a terrible trek, for us anyway, since we drive on the right side of the road. My buddy, who followed us and is Australian…well, he might have had an issue at first. The whole driving trip took about a 2 hour and 45 minute drive, and we did make a stop for lunch on the way. We arrived at the Hilton Orlando, happily, because it was a spacious hotel and we had rooms right near one another. I forgot to mention, that on the boat we were five floors apart.
The main reason we went on this leg of the trip was to surprise our little girls with a visit to Universal Studios Orlando since we would be in Florida; mainly for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We didn’t tell them we were going, only our family and friends knew (and you guys), so they were under the impression that we drove up to Orlando just to hang out with our friends one more night (which was true, too).
The hotel was about 11 minutes from Universal Studios, and about 4 minutes from anything else you needed off International Drive. So convenient. It had a large pool area out the back that we visited on our second morning. It had a large main area pool that had a water slide, graduating entrance points, a Frog themed water fall and tons of lounge chairs! Behind it was a hot tub area, secluded with a waterfall and it faced the large lazy river that had so many fun components to it. It had water canons, trickling falls, a span of bubbling water, and lots of water shooting around; it was so much fun. Then beyond that there was a more secluded pool. We noticed a basketball court, billiards area and tons of fun games all around. Perfect for any family, single couple or group of friends. I will def be going back to this place.
So, how do you surprise two huge Harry Potter fans when you get to Universal and it’s all in front of you? Well, hope they are slightly oblivious like my two. hahaha
When we arrived to the hotel, around 4ish, we told the kids we would freshen up from the ride a bit then take a drive over to City Walk for dinner. City Walk is the Disney Springs (downtown Disney) of Universal, but it’s attached to their parks, unlike Disney. My kids, however, didn’t know this. So, we parked at the lot, which was an awesome $6 after 6PM, then trekked down the walkways to City Walk. The kids loved it. They didn’t realize we were making a straight bee line for will call to grab our tickets that we ordered online a week prior to leaving. We grabbed our cards, but had an issue with the set we got for our friends, so we had to talk to the ticket kiosk.
Still my kids had no clue what we were doing. It was about to be a super sweet moment telling them.
So. Then my oldest asked, “what are we getting tickets for?”. My husband replied, “well, we helped buy tickets for Pat and Mel to take the kids to Universal this week while we are back home.”.
The girls said nothing, continuing to bounce around playing with all the kids.
Then we walked to the turnstiles, gave each girl a ticket. They were dumbfounded, “what is this for?”, looking at us confused. My husband then replied, “They gave us four extra tickets by mistake, and we are going to see if they will get us in the parks right now. Do you want to see if they’ll work?”.
“YES! “. And the girls went into line with us, handing it to the ticket scanner. “It worked!”, my oldest daughter shouted to us, as she hand slapped her sister. But she wasn’t getting it. She thought they were for City Walk or something. So we congregated around her, and I asked her something like, “H, what if I told you that we were not leaving for home tomorrow, but in three days? And what if I said we are here to take you guys to see The Wizarding World right now?”. Our youngest daughter jumped cheering around, “I was hoping so, yay!”. As our oldest daughter broke down crying, from shock, she was saying how happy she was to be going to the parks, BUT she was real excited to be with our friends for three more days more than anything. She really got close to their kids. It was the sweetest moment that brought tears to most of our eyes, because she was just so sweet crying about this newly discovered secret we had been keeping.
We then zoomed up through all the other lands till we made it to the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Hogsmeade side.
Just wow. That is all I can say about it.
We wondered for a little bit, just gazing at everything with our mouths wide open. Then we took a left to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. No detail was left to the imagination, it was the most perfectly segmented waiting queue I have ever seen. The decor alone, not even the video projections, were out of this world. You really were engulfed into the world, no matter where you turned. We got off the ride to find the sun setting, so we went to grab dinner at the Three Broomsticks. They had a decent bar within. Just FYI, one drink per person with an ID. No carrying for anyone. Surprisingly, the food was actually good. Hard to believe, we were all surprised at how decent it all was.
After eating, we took a walk across the way to Ollivander’s Wand Shop. They put on a real fun performance that will get any kid excited, and maybe some adults, too. When you walk in, you are inside Ollivander’s Wand Shop lined up with adults in the back and children in the front, and then in the darkness comes the Wizard to help you find your wand… or the wand find you. At first the Wizard asks my youngest daughter if she needs a wand, and she shyly said no, burying her muzzle in my armpit. Then he asked her sister, who eagerly said yes, and was walked up to the desk. No one really knew what was about to happen.
It was so wonderful that it was her chosen for this experience: she is beyond a HUGE fan. A slew of magical happenings ensued while trying to find the right wand for her. The first wand sparked and blew off magic in all directions. One wand deflated his flowers that needed watering. Once the wand chose her, the room lit up, wind blew all around her to HP music. It was wonderful for her. Then you were directed to either buy the wand, and/or browse the shop..
We bought the wand.
I know, it’s $48.50 for the thing, but we planned on it ahead of time and at that moment it was her chosen for the show, and how could we wait till the next day? Exactly, we couldn’t. The wand has red light readers in it, my husband knows the technical term and wanted to turn her old wand into one..oye, but anyway. The wand is used around the parks, both parks, at designated magic areas that are marked with bronzed markers on the ground. The wizard’s wand performs “magic”. The wands came with a Marauder’s map that had diagrams for the gestures on how to make the magic work. You face the area, swish the wand, and it animates the area. It was a lot of fun going around to the shop windows, all the kids were able to share it, but I had more fun using it later in Knockturn Alley!! Like I said, who has more fun, my kids or me? hah
That first night we closed it out in that world.
March 28- The next day we went around the park a bit. We arrived together, then split up at lunch for an hour. They got to ride the train and we went on 1 Fish, 2 Fish. That ride was super cute, a lot like Alladin’s ride at Magic Kingdom. We met back up and wanted to ride a lot of things, but went straight to Popeye’s area to ride the river raft ride. I backed out because I didn’t want to get wet, my youngest daughter either, so we elected to take a pic of the crew at the bridge above while they were on the ride. Last minute, my husband backed out seeing everyone getting off the ride wet. So, the six went.
OH MY GOSH! They came off soaking wet! Some more than others, and you guessed it, my daughter from head to toe, including her sneakers and uhm, everywhere! So we had to run to wring everything out, but nothing dried well enough. They had dryers but let’s face it, people are hogs and this little girl was upset being soaked. We were dealing with wet clothes for a long time. So, I decided since the time was flying so much from us that we should split up the families so they could do what they wanted to do, as we got clothes for her up in the Wizarding World, where at least she could get something she wants rather than not. Then we got to spend more time up there. So that is what we did. We scurried up there, bought a top, then wrung out her clothes again and again, and she was good to go. We treated the girls to a frozen butterbeer, and then a butterbeer ice cream; that a waiter ended up getting us for free. Super score!
We spent the rest of the time up in Hogsmeade going around and enjoying some time, making magic happen with the wand. We hooked back up with our friends to take the train over to Diagon Alley. We were surprised at the details of King’s Cross station and the small area of their London; where my husband and I actually stayed before in the real London!
Wow, just WOW!
The night bus was a wonderful greeting. We then walked around a bit, looking at all the stores, making our way to Gringott’s ride. Which is an insanely good ride! I loved it so so so much. Rides sure have changed since I was little! Everything is tracked with an extension arm as you look at a domed screen. Super fun, but not for the faint of heart. We grabbed dinner at The Leaky Cauldron, which was a lot of fun for us as a collective group. We chilled a bit more up there, but we couldn’t make everyone stay up there all day, so we separated with our group again. So, we scurried down to MIB so the kids could get another ride in on what they wanted to ride and they ventured over to The Simpsons area.
Right after MIB we ALL met up with two of my high school friends and their families, while catching the movie water and fireworks show that closed out the park. I hadn’t seen one of my HS friends for 22 years! WOW, right? We are adults now, well, I am not. haha Her husband was so nice, and fit, holy cow! To say I felt physically inept next to him is an understatement hah. Her baby girl was so cute, she looked so much like her, and she was so well-behaved being out that late. Really, even my kids were talking about it! My other friend caught up with us a couple of years ago, and I have met up with her at a few lunches near my office. Her son grew up so much, not only was he was taller but mature. So handsome. Wow where did those two years go? My kids were happy to see him too, as they remembered our Animal Kingdom visit so well. It was wonderful to catch up and have everyone meet! Hopefully we can do that again, but for longer!!
March 29- The next day we hung out at the hotel pool. I liked the pool area so much, it was pretty and this girl loves a lazy river! 🙂 Then around 1PM, we decided to head to the parks. When we got there we grabbed lunch, then headed to the parks starting at the other park first. By the time we actually got to the parks the weather started to change, and the day turned rainy. Booo. By the time we got out of our first attraction, we needed to get umbrellas and rain hoods. Which, btw, this very prepared woman packed for everyone…except I left them at the hotel. hahah
So $40 later, we went around the parks trying to get on rides, but with the rain all the indoor attractions and rides were more than 100 minute wait!! So we went on as many outdoor ones we could without the heavy rain, and then to MIB, because the girls really enjoyed it..and me, too!
Nightfall came, and guess what? I was freezing.
But guess what else? My hoodie was at the hotel. OOFA!!
So, now $94 later, the two families decided to split up again because chasing down a decent looking hoodie took me forever..and I ended up getting one at MIB! haha So, everyone went to do what they wanted to. We went to, of course, The Wizarding World through Diagon Alley. We spent time going through all the shops, the detail was just so beautiful. We played with all the ‘magical’ wand windows, and stumbling upon my favorite area…Knockturn Alley. (mwuahaha! Yasss, I love the dark side 😉 )
It was all so much fun! We then decided to have dessert for dinner at the Leaky Cauldron, which is always a great idea. We decided to go on the train back over to Hogsmeade.
At that station, as you weave your way through the line, there is an area at the top of the stairs where if you look to the left across the line, you can see your friends walking ahead of you walking ‘through’ Platform 9 3/4. It was such a great add-on in the station. PLUS, the visuals on the ride back was so much more fun..because I like the dark side!
We ended up going through Hogsmeade at snail speed to soak it all up and enjoy the sites while grabbing some last-minute souvenirs. We then ran up to our last ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, that had a shorter wait…our first ride of the three-day trip. It was a great way to end our last day! We then met back up with our friends who were late night dining at Margaritaville, and went back home to the hotel.
The rain did not damper our last day!