A Happy New Year 2012 to all on this planet. Let it bring peace and prosperity.
The Carnival Sensation in better light30-Dec-2011 13:48, Canon Canon PowerShot G12, 4.0, 6.1mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 80
I had a week off between Christmas and New Years Day. Used some of travel points to book a cruise on Carnival Sensation to Bahamas. It was a three day cruise with a 1/2 day stop over at Nassau’s Atlantis resort. I used the first few days to get some personal work done. We left Philadelphia on Wednesday for a 8 AM flight. The flight to Orlando was calm and on-time. Hertz gave me a free upgrade – a new Oldsmobile something with 570 miles on it. Spacious and comfortable. We headed off to Universal studios. Our aim was to visit the new Harry Potter park. Once near the park, it took us 30 minutes to get to parking. There was way too much crowd at Noon. I was expecting the crowds entering the park to have dwindled by then, but was not the case. Apparently the Holiday week made everything filled to the brim with people. Halfway to the ticket stands there was an announcement that the park was full and no more would be allowed until 6 PM. But the park would be open till midnight instead of till 11 PM. We anyway got tickets and this was the only day we had before getting onto the ship. Park tickets have gotten so expensive – at $90 per ticket, I was short of nearly $300 including parking; and we were just visiting the Harry Potter park from 6 PM. Late 90s, I remember paying $35 per head to get to one of these parks when Vikas was much younger. At this rate, in ten years, the tickets should cost $200 each – will worry about that later!
29-Dec-2011 11:37, Canon Canon PowerShot G12, 3.2, 10.775mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 250
The roads were still crowded and took us 3 change of lights to make a left turn. We drove to Ashirwad for lunch – it is a nice restaurant. The food had an healthy amount of spice and not overly greasy; there was quite a bit of vegetables. The Renaissance resort near Sea world is huge and a bit dated, but was overall great for a day’s stay. The rooms look out into the courtyard which houses the restaurant and the bar. A mammoth 100-150 inch display was showing off the sea life in all splendid colors. After a brief nap, we rose to drive back to the park.
Three Broomstick pub at Hogwarts village28-Dec-2011 19:33, Canon Canon PowerShot G12, 2.8, 7.407mm, 0.4 sec, ISO 1600
By 6:15 PM, it was getting dark and could see many people exiting the park. The park was all lighted up and the glitz was coming through. Candy and pastry shops, people lining up for drinks, stopping for photographs, calling out for family members – the whole place was bee-busy. The Harry Potter part of the park was at the very back. After strolling for 1/2 hour we couldn’t find a family friendly ride without much wait time. So Vikas and myself decided to do the Dragon Challenge. This is an incredible ride with loops and twists. Luckily I hadn’t seen all of it from the outside – if I had, I would have hesitated. I didn’t know what I was getting into until the car started to rise nearly 150 feet and we were at the very top. For a brief moment, I knew I was going down and that is all I remember. The next 40 seconds or so was a mish-mash of exhilarating twists and turns and hurls and rush of air I can’t recollect much of the surroundings. The trick to enjoy one of these super rides is to trust the system – the mechanical elements of it. As long as you fear for your life, you cannot enjoy the ride. Trust the system and sit there to only enjoy the sensations knowing you will never be thrown out or never need to grip the bars for the sake of your life. The kids don’t fear for their life and hence you hear more screams of enjoyment. After all the rides have to pass the strictest possible safety standards and not affect adversely most of the people; else the number of people riding these should be coming down, but it is the other way.
Mythos restaurant - waiting for food28-Dec-2011 21:33, Canon Canon PowerShot G12, 2.8, 6.1mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 1600
We stopped for a Butterbeer – the drink Harry, Hermione and Ron would seek on their outings to the Hogwarts village. The wait time to enter the Hogwarts’s castle was varying between 90 and 120 minutes. I was hoping this would come down after 10 PM. Incredible as it sounds, there were lines to enter the variety of shops – worth 15-20 minute waits. One shop we went into where the wands were sold was almost a stampede-setup. Though the attendant was controlling the number of people entering, the same numbers weren’t exiting the shop at the same rate. Moreover, there was this crowd of 15 or so selected fans who would get a special tour. All-in-all, I could find space to move around and stood by a bookshelf while Vikas was getting Dumbledore’s signature wand. Children all exited were part of the atmosphere – it was almost like being in the midst of the magic of Harry Potter. If JK Rowling gets a cut of everything sold in the park, she will one day be the richest entity on the planet ahead of the corporations.
Harry Potter park, Orlando28-Dec-2011 19:31, Canon Canon PowerShot G12, 4.0, 21.461mm, 0.3 sec, ISO 1600
We caught sight of the Hogwarts choir and at 9:30 PM, we were hungry for dinner. Looking out for a pizza place, we found Mythos – a themed restaurant after a mythical Greek figure. The inside was like a cavern with ceiling rising to well over 3 story high. The chef made us some nice pad Thai and pizza; topping it off with a kid’s banana split and we couldn’t have asked for a better dinner. The service was excellent; no wonder the restaurant has been named the best themed restaurant for six years in a row. We were lucky as the doors closed just a bit after we entered. After dinner, we found the wait for the castle was still 120 minutes long. The park was still way too crowded for enjoyment. That was it for us for the day and we drove back to the hotel.