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Hurricane Ian at Universal Orlando Resort

Hurricane Ian at Universal Orlando Resort

Tuesday, October 11th, 2022

The Calm Before the Storm at Islands of Adventure

The Calm Before the Storm at Islands of Adventure

I just returned from a 13-day family vacation to Orlando, Florida. Our first stop was the Universal Orlando Resort. Universal knows how important a vacation is. And while they guarantee an incredible vacation experience, they unfortunately cannot make any guarantees about the weather.

Three days before we were scheduled to arrive at Universal, so was Hurricane Ian. At the time – the National Hurricane Center predicted Ian would take a path on the west coast of the state, resulting in only the outer bands of the storm reaching the central Florida area. Orlando is located 40 miles from the Atlantic coast, which means it is rare that the area is severely impacted by hurricanes. In fact, Orlando’s inland location makes it a primary destination for those who are seeking shelter from an approaching storm. Simply put, Orlando is the safest place to be during a hurricane in Florida.

We arrived at Lowes Sapphire Falls at the Universal Orlando Resort on Monday, September 26th. We enjoyed CityWalk that evening and on Tuesday, headed to Islands of Adventure. While in line for VelociCoaster, we learned that Hurricane Ian had taken a turn and the storm was now on route to hit Orlando directly. I knew from years of dealing with Florida theme parks and hurricanes that chances are the parks would close. So, we attempted to take in as much as we could and headed over to Universal Studios. Sure enough, at 4:45pm, while waiting to watch the Jason Bourne Stuntacular, I received notice that due to the approaching hurricane, both Universal theme parks and City Walk would be closed on Wednesday, September 28th and Thursday, September 29th.

Meeting Gru in the Lobby at Sapphire Falls

Meeting Gru in the Lobby at Sapphire Falls

We were only staying at Universal until Thursday, so we knew that our time at Universal was over. But not before we squeezed in a fantastic dinner at The Toothsome Chocolate Factory and picked up pizza from Red Oven Bakery to enjoy back at our hotel.

Lowes Sapphire Falls is a large, high rise style hotel.  It offers a full-service restaurant, a quick service dining location with grab and go items that serves Starbucks coffee, a bar, and a Universal Studio store. It has floor to ceiling windows in the rooms and throughout the lobby and hallways. Allowing us to watch the storm’s wrath, all the while remaining safe and dry inside.

On Wednesday morning, I received word that Walt Disney World (where we scheduled to move to the following day) was not allowing any check ins on Thursday. After having a mini heart attack, I visited the front desk at Sapphire Falls. The Team Member (Universal lingo for employee) not only extended our stay until Friday without issue – but to make things even easier – let us remain in the same room. 10 points for Gryffindor!

I learned then that Team Members work during the storm on a volunteer basis. In an exchange for volunteering, Universal puts them and their family up at the hotel. The same Team Members were with us for the full 48 hours. And they couldn’t possibly be more kind or helpful. Especially when considering they left their homes behind and won’t know how the hurricane will have affected their dwellings until it’s all over. Their kindness was in a word; infectious. Absolutely every single Guest we encountered was just as courteous, kind and patient.

As far as hunkering down for a hurricane goes, we could not have been in a better place to do so. Over the following two days, there were always Universal characters in the lobby, children’s activities, board games, movies to enjoy and more for Guest use in the board rooms. We used the fitness centre, took pictures with Gru, watched Jurassic World, souvenir shopped, ate, drank, and met SO many wonderful people (and their dogs)!

Downed Trees and Debris Along the Path to CityWalk

Downed Trees and Debris Along the Path to CityWalk

On Thursday morning, clean-up crews began clearing knocked over palm trees, debris from walkways, the pools and more. From our hotel room, we could see a hole that Ian ripped out on the side of the building that houses Jurassic Park River Adventure. I also read that a portion of The Incredible Hulk Coaster was under water. Later that evening, we attempted to take the walkway from our resort to City Walk. But we were quickly turned around by flooding, downed trees and more. It was then that I realized that the parks were closed in advance for two days: one for the actual storm and the second for clean-up. Then – depending on the amount of any damage – parks open back up the following day.

Throughout it all, we really enjoyed our time at Universal and Sapphire Falls. Without the parks closing, we would have never discovered the fantastic Strong Water Tavern, which turned out to be our favourite dining experience of the vacation. And I thought we would all be sick of Sapphire Falls come Friday morning – but to the contrary – we all agreed that we can’t wait to go back. Only this time, we’d prefer to spend more time at the Universal theme parks and only use the hotel to sleep and change. 🙂

Flooding Along the Path to CityWalk

Flooding Along the Path to CityWalk

It was upsetting to see the destruction Ian left behind – knowing that as awful at it was – what we saw wasn’t anywhere near comparable to the damage Hurricane Ian caused elsewhere. If you are resident or visitor of a coastal town and need to escape the path of a hurricane, I highly recommend heading to the Universal Orlando Resort to do so.

A massive thank you to Universal Orlando and the Team Members at Sapphire Falls. We will be forever grateful for the hospitality and kindness that they bestowed upon us.

– Christine Fiorelli

Hurricanes are natural disasters that form over open water primarily between the months of June and November. Hurricane Ian was a large and destructive Category 4 Atlantic hurricane. Ian caused widespread damage across western Cuba and the southeast United States, especially in Florida and South Carolina. It was the third-deadliest storm to hit the U.S. mainland this century behind Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.

You can help people affected by Hurricane Ian by donating to Redcross here:
https://www.redcross.org/donate/hurricane-ian-donations.html/


The Castle on the Sea – The Disney Wish!

Monday, July 4th, 2022

Following a six-month delay due to COVID, the newest vessel in the Disney Cruise Line fleet; The Disney Wish finally set sail on its Christening Cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida.  Of all the fantastic things I was looking forward to experiencing during the world’s return to normal, The Disney Wish was at the top of my list.  Not only am I an avid Disney Cruiser (admittedly, I prefer a Disney Cruise vacation to a Disney theme park one), but hello?  BRAND SPANKING NEW DISNEY SHIP!  Need I say more?

Upon first spotting The Disney Wish off in the distance when approaching Port Canaveral, I could already see that she was in a word; magnificent.  Not only was she massive, but the classic red and yellow Mickey colours tied into the elegance of ocean liners of the past…The Disney Wish is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!

The wonder and enchantment of this new vessel begins the moment you step on-board.  The atrium is as classy and inviting as the famous ‘meet me at the clock’ staircase from Titanic.  A statue of Cinderella sits front and centre here – just as she should – after all a dream is a wish your heart makes.  To compliment Cindy, blue, white and gold is woven throughout the floor and walls.

The staterooms are sleek and eloquent.  They feature hints of various Disney leading ladies, depending on which deck your stateroom is located on.   We were on deck 10 and ours featured everyone’s favourite Little Mermaid.  From flat screen TVs to a glass shower door, these staterooms are Disney’s finest on the seas.

The Disney Wish offers a LOT more elbow room at the pool and recreational decks.  Finally, Disney has made is so that those ‘relaxing days at sea’ will be just that, oppose to stalking another Guest for their deck chair.  The highlight here is the AquaMouse, which is a water slide ride combined with audio and visuals, making it the very first attraction at sea.  While lots of fun, it is temperamental.  So be sure to experience AquaMouse as soon as you can to avoid disappointment.  Little ones have an adorable Toy Story themed splash area, families have their choice of six pools and the adults only area features a hot tub and an infinity pool located at the aft of the ship.

I was disappointed that there wasn’t more shade to be found in the pool areas.  So be sure to pack your sunscreen.  I also wish that the adult pool was larger, easier to get in and out of and that it wasn’t such a long walk in the sun to get to or to grab some grub from.

Speaking of grub, one of the biggest surprises on ANY Disney ship is how excellent the food is.  The Disney Wish is certainly no exception to that rule.  As someone who has sailed with Disney many times over the years; I was very pleased to be provided with all new menus and dining options. Three brand new rotational dining restaurants make their debut on The Disney Wish1923, Arendelle and Worlds of Marvel.

1923 is the Wish’s Triton’s (Disney Wonder), Lumiere’s (Disney Magic), Royal Palace (Disney Dream) and Royal Court (Disney Fantasy).  And 1923 meets all those expectations you anticipate from these similar dining locations.  Here, you’re in for a walk down memory lane in this casual but refined restaurant that pays homage to Walt Disney and the golden era of animation.

Arendelle is similar to Rapunzel’s (Disney Magic) and Tiana’s Place (Disney Wonder) in that it is a show style dinner, featuring dishes from the story’s hometown.  In this case, the menu is inspired by Nordic cuisine.  This was a pleasant surprise for me, as Frozen is undeniably one of my least favourite Disney animated feature films.  But the theming, talent and food were all very impressive.  And I assure you that you haven’t heard Let it Go, until you’ve heard it performed by Oaken and Kristoff!

Worlds of Marvel features some of our friends from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in a showcase of revolutionary quantum technology and world-class cuisine.  While a decent show, it is all pre-recorded video.  As a ship’s replacement to Animator’s Palette, I was hoping for something a little more interactive.  Asgardian Talk with Thor or seeing my drawing of Groot come to life would have been a vast improvement.  Regardless, I still laughed at Scott Lang’s shenanigans, enjoyed watching clips of some of my favourite movies and television shows during dinner and Ant-Man and Wasp making an in person appearance was a pleasant surprise.

One of the biggest draws of a Disney Cruise are the kid’s clubs and recreation.  Which makes sense because if Disney can’t keep little ones entertained, literally no other cruise line can.  The Oceaneers Club features Avengers, Star Wars, Princesses and more.  The Hero Zone offers indoor basketball, air hockey, ping pong and other such games.  And Edge and Vibe continue to be stand out areas for tweens and teens alike.  One of the best kept secrets of a Disney Cruise is that your children will be more interested in spending time in their spaces on the ship than they will be hanging out with mom and dad.

Due to legalities, every other cruise line is very limited to which music, characters and shows they can produce.  Disney on the other hand?  They own all of those said music, characters and shows, which means they can basically produce an endless line up of entertainment.  We were fortunate enough be given a sneak peak of Disney’s two new stage shows, Seas the Adventure and The Little Mermaid.  Both brought classic Disney stories to life in new ways.

I do miss the promenade deck (found on all previous four vessels) that is used for jogging as well as walking, with signs indicating the mileage.  For some unknown reason on the Wish, not only do you have to climb a set of stairs to continue along the promenade on deck 4, but you cannot make a full lap.  Instead, you reach a dead end and must double back.  On that note, unfortunately there are several dead ends to be found on The Disney Wish – so be prepared for this difference when exploring until you are more familiar with the layout of the ship.

Various bars, theatres and lounges are scattered throughout all decks.  Fans of the Star Wars franchise will find the drinks they are looking for at Hyperspace Lounge, you still have access to first run movies, but in TWO different theatres and at The Bayou, you can savour some beignets with your morning coffee!

The Disney Wish celebrates nearly 100 years of storytelling.  It is an extension of the films and characters we know and love from Disney.  It brings fantastic worlds and beloved characters to life in new and innovative ways.

The only thing major disappointment from our time on The Disney Wish was that our sailing was only three nights long.  Without a doubt, three-and four-night sailings are simply far too short to really experience all that this new Castle on the Sea has to offer.  There were several areas of the ship that I simply didn’t have time to enjoy or explore.  Therefore, if you’re looking to really experience the wonder and enchantment of The Disney Wish, I highly recommend opting for a back-to-back sailing.  This way, you can enjoy a full seven nights aboard this beauty.  Besides, who doesn’t want to enjoy  TWO full days at Castaway Cay? SIGN. ME. UP!

– Christine Fiorelli

Contact Fairytale Dreams & Destinations to Experience the Castle on the Sea Today!

(905) 857.3611 | 1.855.FDMAGIC

10 McEwan Drive West Unit 3 Bolton ON L7E 1H1

www.fairytaledestinations.com


It’s Time to Save the Galaxy!

Monday, May 9th, 2022

There are three fandoms that are without a doubt an obsession of mine: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  I credit Disney for the latter obsession, simply because I never collected comic books as a child.  No. My complete fixation with everything Marvel began at the movie theatre with a little movie called The Avengers.

Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment back in 2009 for a whopping four billion.  But while they purchased the rights to over 5,000 comic book characters from the Marvel Universe, there were some very well-known characters whose rights were owned by other film studios.  Sony had the rights to Spider-Man, Fox held the rights to both X-Men and the Fantastic Four, and I would need a PhD to understand how it works when it comes to the rights of the representation of these same Marvel characters in theme parks.

So, what could Disney do when some of the biggest hitters aren’t allowed to play in their sandbox?  They did what they have always done best.  Disney marketed.  They opened the very big book of those 5,000 characters and pulled out; Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther and many other unknown superheroes from the Marvel universe and turned them all into household names.

13 years later, Marvel is one of the biggest names in film.  And now we have a whole slew of new Comic Book characters who children want to dress up as for Halloween, whose action figures are on every toy shelf at Christmas, and whose identities can be brought to Disney’s world renown theme parks.  Specifically, the big one – in Florida.

Enter…Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.

Last week I was invited to a preview of this brand new attraction coming to EPCOT.  I’m not going to lie; my expectations were set VERY high for it.  Reason being that I’m not at all a fan of the Star Wars franchise, but I am completely blown away with the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  It is the most technologically advanced attraction in existence today. It’s attention to detail, seamlessness of moving from scene to scene, and how believable the battle between the Resistance and First Order felt, makes it by far the most complex and immersive attraction I’ve ever experienced.  Which means I know exactly what Disney is capable of.   So, my expectation bar was set sky high for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.  I’m so happy to share that Disney met my crazy high expectations and then some.

Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!

Cosmic Rewind replaced Universe of Energy (yawn) in the new World Discovery section of Epcot.  The building that houses Guardians is 140 feet tall and is rumoured to hold four Spaceship Earths inside.  It’s an indoor roller coaster, featuring rotating cars, a backwards launch, and because: Peter Quill (a.k.a. Star-Lord), some pretty awesome music.

Your adventure begins in the Galaxarium, a planetarium-like exhibition that explores the similarities and mysteries of the formation of Earth’s galaxy and Xandar, a planet from the Guardians of the Galaxy films.  Xandarians have come to Earth and are building their new EPCOT pavilion.  The known humour from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies is alive and well here.  Star-Lord expresses excitement about returning to EPCOT and enjoying Horizons and hearing the veggie, veggie, fruit, fruit song.   Which would make sense to Peter, given that he hasn’t been on earth since the 1980s.

Next, Nova Prime welcomes us and explains that we will be transported to a ship to see a demonstration of the cosmic generator, a device that creates shortcuts through space and time.   Once we are transported to the ship – Eson, a celestial being (or ‘that really big man outside our ship’ as Drax describes him) steals the Cosmic Generator, jumps back in time and it’s up to us to follow him to save the galaxy.

Then get ready to board a unique vehicle that Disney Imagineering has dubbed the OmniCoaster.  This ride vehicle can rotate 360 degrees with exact precision.  Don’t let the height restriction of only 42 inches fool you.  I would describe the thrill level of this attraction somewhere between Space Mountain and Expedition Everest.

Speaking of thrill, the ride begins with a show scene before you blast off BACKWARDS on an intergalactic chase through space and time.  The ride vehicles move swiftly and smoothly, but they are relentless.  The thrill factor does not let up – for a full three minutes.   But what makes this experience so unique is not only the ride vehicle, it’s the use of music and banter among the Guardians.

While music on a roller coaster is not a first for Disney (I’m looking at you, Rock n’ Roller Coaster – Starring Aerosmith), the difference here is that the coaster twists and turns in time to the beat, allowing you to dance in your seat should you choose to do so.

There are two types of being in the universe: those who dance, and those who do not.” – Drax the Destroyer

But let’s talk for a second about the music because tunes are very important to Star-Lord.   And even more important to the enjoyment of the overall experience.  The “Awesome Mix” of songs you may hear while racing across the galaxy include:

September – Earth, Wind & Fire
Disco Inferno – The Trammps
Conga – Gloria Estefan
Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Tears for Fears
I Ran – A Flock of Seagulls
One Way or Another – Blondie

I rode a total of six times.  I heard Disco Inferno, I Ran and both Everybody Wants to Rule the World and One Way or Another twice.  The latter song is currently my favourite track, but I’ll have to ride it just a few more times first to ensure I get to hear all six songs before making a final decision on that.

Disney imagineers tested out hundreds of tunes before opting for the final six listed above.  Quentin Tarantino once said that if you use a song in a movie right, the effect is you can never really hear the song again without thinking about that image from the movie.  I can tell you that the exact same rule applies here.  I’ve heard two of the songs above since I’ve returned, and I was not able to think of anything but saving the galaxy when I did.

Given that Peter only has a cassette tape to listen to music on, several other of his favourite tunes play in the exit area to help keep the excitement alive after you’ve just saved the galaxy and became honorary Guardians.

This attraction is going to be a MASSIVE hit for Marvel fans and thrill seekers alike.  Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opens on May 27 only at EPCOT.

– Christine Fiorelli

Contact Fairytale Dreams & Destinations to help the Guardians save the galaxy (again!)

(905) 857.3611 | 1.855.FDMAGIC
10 McEwan Drive West Unit 3 Bolton ON L7E 1H1
www.fairytaledestinations.com


I’m Going to Miami!

Thursday, March 3rd, 2022

Almost every Canadian in the middle of winter misses the warm sun.  Which means that when my friend and her husband asked us to join them on an adult only 4-night Bahamian cruise out of Miami, we jumped on board (pardon the pun).  Safety always has been and always will be the number one priority of any Disney Destination.  So naturally when navigating travel during a pandemic, our first cruise line of choice for our winter escape was Disney.

I know what you’re thinking “ummm…an adult trip…on a Mickey ship?”  Granted, Disney Cruise Line is very well known as a family friendly experience, but I’m here to tell you that it should also be equally known for being an adult friendly one.

Don’t get me wrong – after all – this IS a Disney ship.  So, be prepared to see Disney characters, for the movies playing in public areas to be family friendly and to see the stories you know and love from the Disney brand come to life around the ship.  It’s worth noting that a Disney Cruise offers the same quality of food, entertainment, and service we all know and love from the Disney theme parks, but…without the exhaustion.  As far as a vacation goes, the biggest difference between the parks and the cruise is that a Disney cruise is the relaxing one.

We opted to fly in the day prior to our cruise to ensure no flight delays due to our great Canadian winter weather.  We arrived late afternoon, took the hotel shuttle over to the EB Miami* and welcomed with open arms, the 27-degree Miami heat.  In realizing that over the next four days, we would have no children to worry about, no dogs to walk and nowhere to drive to, we took a collective guess at how high our bar tab was going to be.

The following morning, we grabbed a light breakfast (because we all knew the abundant amounts of food that were about to face us), packed a day bag and took an Uber over to the Port.  Every Guest aged 2+ must partake in a rapid Covid test before boarding the ship.  I have to say, Disney has this portion of their check in process down to a science.  It was smooth and much more efficient than I had previously experienced.  We arrived at the port at 11:20am, went through security, performed our rapid tests, checked in for our sailing and were walking the gangway onto the Disney Magic at 12:10pm.

Once on board, we were greeted by Mickey, checked into our assembly station, grabbed some lunch and headed directly to where we planned on spending majority of the next four days, Quiet Cove.  This area is reserved for Guests’ ages 18+ and on the Disney Magic, Quiet Cove offers padded lounge chairs, a quiet pool, two hot tubs, a bar and Cove Café (similar to a Starbucks but with booze)!  We did a LOT of relaxing in this area.  After all, why not enjoy the sun when rumour has it that Elsa unleashed a powerful snowstorm back home?

The quality of food and entertainment is second to none on a Disney Cruise.  Rightfully so because Disney absolutely should be at the top of their game when it comes to these important areas of a vacation.  And anyone who has ever visited a Disney theme park or dined at a Disney owned and operated restaurant can attest to this.  The reality is that Disney owns the rights to just about…everything.  So, if they are not able to entertain you with their variety of Broadway style shows, fireworks at sea, live amusement and more – simply put – no other entertainment company can.

As fantastic as the food is on board, if you’d like to indulge just a little bit more, you’ll want to dine at Palo, an adult only Northern Italian restaurant with a modern twist.  It is an additional charge, but worth every single penny.  Palo is Italian for “pole” and is inspired by Venice, with decorative masks and decor matching the colours of the city.  It’s located in the aft on deck 10, which means that almost every seat has a spectacular view of the sunset during dinner.  And if you’re a dessert fan like I am, be certain you leave room for the soufflé.  I’ll go out on a limb and say that Palo will make your list of one of the best restaurants you’ve ever dined at – on land or at sea.

Once the sun set, there was no shortage of beer, wine, and spirit tastings to keep us amused.  And don’t underestimate how much fun the adult only evening events are around the ship.  The Cast who runs these activities and their natural comedic ability make them an absolute standout.  We attended Snippets, 80’s Music Trivia, Match Your Mate and more.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed as hard as I did.

But if Disney related activities are more your jam and you think you know everything there is to know about it, I dare you to try any level of the Disney trivia.  After all, I’m sure every Disney fan knows who the first sitting US President to voice their animatronic at the Hall of Presidents was.

Perhaps the biggest highlight of a Disney cruise is the little slice of paradise in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay.  To those who have never sailed with Disney, Castaway Cay is to Disney Cruise Line what Cinderella Castle is to Walt Disney World.  It was the first private island in the cruise industry where the ship docks on the island, eliminating the need to tender.  This allows Guests to easily disembark the ship and walk or take the trams over to the adult only area of the island, Serenity Bay.  And if you get hungry, there is no need to head back to your cruise ship, because a wonderful buffet (with steak) is prepared for you.  Here, you can relax on a lounge chair, enjoy a drink, crack open a book and float your cares away in the blissful tranquility.

While there is no wrong time to sail with Disney, our choice to do so in the middle winter was one I would do again in a heartbeat.  As a bonus – ships are not sailing at full capacity just yet.  And lower crowd levels on a Disney ship during peak season are always a great thing.  More precisely, on our sailing there were 1,022 Cast Members and 1,033 Guests, which is a little less than half of full capacity.

So, if you’re looking to take a break from the long, cold, Canadian winter, I highly recommend going to see the line where the sky meets the sea.  Oh, and for those playing along at home, the bar tab was almost double what we predicted it would be and the first sitting US President to voice his animatronic was Bill Clinton.

– Christine Fiorelli

The Magic is Calling.

Contact Fairytale Dreams & Destinations to Answer the Call Today!

(905) 857.3611 | 1.855.FDMAGIC
10 McEwan Drive West Unit 3 Bolton ON L7E 1H1
www.fairytaledestinations.com

* Your Fairytale Dreams & Destinations Vacation Specialist can add a pre or post hotel stay to your cruise when sailing with Disney Cruise Line.

 

 

 

 


Disney Genie+ | The Good, the Bad & the FANTASTIC!

Tuesday, February 15th, 2022

Disney Genie+ has replaced FastPass+ at the Walt Disney World Resort.  It is a paid service that allows you to spend less time waiting in line at over 40 Walt Disney World Resort attractions.  Along with Disney Genie+ came Individual Lightning Lane, an express pass reservation system for highly demanded attractions (two at each theme park).

Attraction Wait Times on Wednesday, February 9th 2022

Cost for Disney Genie+ is $15.98 USD per person/per day.  And the cost for each Individual Lightning Lane varies but is generally between $7 and $18 USD per person/per attraction.  To confuse things, the Individual Lightning Lane attractions are NOT included in the Disney Genie+ service.

When this service was first announced, I was hesitant.  I mean why do I have to pay for something that was previously complimentary?  But it didn’t take me long to look beyond the cost and realize that this system is a game changer when it comes to a Walt Disney World vacation.

The Good

The Cost – Yes, the cost.  A big challenge with the previous system was that it was complimentary, so everyone was fighting over the same popular attractions.  Which meant if you weren’t staying on-site for four nights or longer, forget securing a FastPass+ for Avatar: Flight of Passage.  Whereas now, because it’s an additional cost, only about 50% of Disney visitors are paying for it.  Making it truly the premium service it was designed to be.  Don’t believe me?  There was a time many moons ago that the ability to park hop (visit multiple theme parks within the same day) was complimentary. Now that Guests must pay for this option, nowhere near the same number of Guests bother to visit Magic Kingdom in the morning and grab a bite to eat in the World Showcase at EPCOT at night.

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) – This attraction previously provided a virtual queue to book a return time to experience it.  Yet it is SO crazy popular that this complimentary queue was sold out by 7:02am.  I kid you not.  I spent many days in my youth trying to secure Madonna concert tickets and it wasn’t nearly as difficult.  Can you imagine, spending all your vacation time and money and then not being able to experience this ground-breaking attraction?  Now if you want to guarantee your chance to escape the First Order, you can simply pay a little bit more to do so.  Problem (and Guest Services line up about it) solved.

The Bad

Mornings – Your first Disney Genie+ selection can be made at 7:00am. I don’t like waking up before 7:00am on a workday.  Which means, I don’t like having to on vacation either. And yes, you need to if you wish to secure some of the more sought-after options such as Slinky Dog Dash (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) and Test Track (EPCOT).  I really hope that they change this to just a little bit later.  8:00am would work fine by me, or perhaps even allowing Disney resort Guests the ability to book them any time after midnight. Sigh…I can hope!

My Phone – Disney Genie+ requires you to be on your phone – a LOT.  Not only does this kill your phone battery, but I don’t like that it takes away from spending time with my family.  However, MyDisneyExperience requires you to be on your phone for Mobile Ordering, MagicMobile, Wait Times and more.  So, using it to book your next Disney Genie+ experience isn’t really THAT much more.  But just be sure to bring a back-up battery.  You’ve been warned.

Secondary Individual Lightning Lanes – For the love of Zeus, can we just have ONE attraction per theme park available on Individual Lightning Lane?  Disney did this over Christmas, and I wish it was something they kept all year round.  It would without a doubt simplify…well everything.  And if they were to do this, Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom), Frozen Ever After (EPCOT), Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) and Expedition Everest (Disney’s Animal Kingdom) would all move over to Disney Genie+.

The FANTASTIC!

Guest Experience Team – These folks be easily spotted by their blue umbrellas and are located throughout all four theme parks.  The Guest Experience team are in a word; magical. Not only do they always have a smile on their face, no matter how many times I’ve (sadly) seen Guests yell at them, but they can solve any problem you have with the entire Disney Genie+ system to your satisfaction.  And I speak from personal experience when I say in true Disney Cast Member fashion, they can even sprinkle a dose of pixie dust when needed.

No Lines – One of the biggest complaints about a Walt Disney World vacation is having to wait in line.  No argument here!  But let’s face it, a Walt Disney World vacation is not cheap.  So, to pay just a little bit more to not have to wait in line? Sign. Me.Up!  Because I can tell you that when using Disney Genie+ in combination with Individual Lightning Lane access, you won’t have to wait in line…for anything.

I’ve been able to use this brand-new service a few times now and it works.  Most importantly it works with high crowd levels.  I was in Walt Disney World at the end of January and the insane crowds during what is historically one of the two slowest months of the year told me that the pent-up demand to travel post COVID is no joke.  So, you can count out any ‘slow’ times at Walt Disney World for some time to come.  I assure you that Disney Genie+ will help – a LOT – with this challenge.

So now the question is with SO many options to choose from on Disney Genie+, which do you prioritize? Peter Pan’s Flight?  Splash Mountain? Pirates of the Caribbean? And do you really need to purchase the express pass for ALL eight Individual Lightning Lane attractions? Not to worry because your Vacation Specialist at Fairytale Dreams & Destinations is here to help!  Included in your personalized Fairytale Guide, you’ll find both recommended Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane experiences best suited for your traveling party’s needs and wants – saving you even more time from standing in line.

– Christine Fiorelli

The Magic is Calling.

Contact Fairytale Dreams & Destinations to Answer the Call Today!

(905) 857.3611 | 1.855.FDMAGIC
10 McEwan Drive West Unit 3 Bolton ON L7E 1H1
www.fairytaledestinations.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Dose of Disney Magic!

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022

No one:

Absolutely no one:

Not a single soul on this Earth:

Omicron: “I think the human population would like me to visit them for Christmas”

I am pretty sure that no one invited Omicron over for the holidays.  Yet it showed up on our doorsteps like an unwanted extended family member. It’s been six weeks since Christmas and Omicron hasn’t taken a hint yet..making it a very unwanted house guest.  It’s lingering, taking its sweet time, staying well after New Year’s, unable to realize that we want it to go way…forever.

Cinderella Castle

As much as we all want to, we can’t simply wish it away.  Nor are we able to sit it down and try to reason with it.  So, do we wait for it to leave?  Wait with it until it’s sibling, Omicron the Second, shows up and we are stuck entertaining this new unwanted Guest in our homes for weeks on end again?  We could…but that could take weeks, months, or more than likely, years.  So, at some point – when we feel safe enough to do so – it’s time to leave our home and Omicron behind.

Which is exactly what my cousin (who is an RN) decided to do.  After nearly two years of this nonsense, it was time for a little magic for her two girls (ages 8 and 5).  So, the four of us headed on a very last minute trip to Walt Disney World for three wonderful nights. It was cold, or rather, cold by Florida’s standards.  But there was no snow, no lockdowns, no worrying of ‘what next’ and no talk of COVID-19 for a glorious three days.  Which means that it was exactly what the doctor ordered.

To fly into the US, all passengers ages 12+ must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and test negative on a rapid antigen test 24 hours before departure.  Check!  Seeing as we need to have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of our flight back home, the first thing we did after checking into our hotel (Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside) was take our tests from the comfort of our hotel room with Switch Health.  As always, it was a non-evasive, lower nasal swab and to make matters even easier when traveling with little ones, this one is self-administered.

Pluto surprising my niece at the Garden Grill

Now we were ready to have some fun!  We headed to Disney Springs because my 8-year old niece is a Lego obsessed.   We stood in line at Gideons because their cookies are SO worth the wait, shopped at the World of Disney and browsed the Disney’s Days of Christmas store.

On Sunday, we headed to Epcot.  We purchased Individual Lightning Lanes for both Frozen Ever After and Ratatouille.  We took advantage of early morning access to ride Test Track.  We then told the tower we were ready for take-off on Soarin’, explored the big blue sea with Nemo, journeyed into our Imagination, chatted up a storm with a couple of sisters from Arendelle, ate some delicious treats from the Festival of the Arts and dined at the Garden Grill, where the girls were able to see (and take selfies with) Chip, Dale, Mickey and Pluto during their meal.

Chatting up a storm with Anna and Elsa

We saved the best for last and as such, Monday we headed to the Magic Kingdom.  We purchased Disney Genie+, which allowed us to experience the happiest cruise that ever sailed, sing along during the new Coco segment at Mickey’s PhilharMagic, soar with Peter Pan, meet Elena, Cinderella, Tiana and Rapunzel, swim under the sea with Ariel, help Buzz defeat the evil Emperor Zurg and take a spin on the PeopleMover.  Last, but certainly not least, we purchased an Individual Lightning Lane for Space Mountain, because it’s not a visit to the Magic Kingdom without experiencing this classic coaster.

We grabbed dinner at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, took a circle tour on monorail red before taking in the new nighttime show at the Magic Kingdom, Disney Enchantment.  On our final morning, we took a nice stroll over to Disney’s Port Orleans – French Quarter to soak up our last chance at vitamin D from the warm Florida sun and devoured some deliciously fresh beignets before heading back to the airport.

Masks are still mandated at all indoor locations unless actively eating or drinking at the Walt Disney World Resort.  But aside from that, things feel far more normal than they are back home in Ontario.  And it was crystal clear how beneficial a little bit of normal is for children of all ages right about now.

It was a whirlwind of a trip, but worth every moment of it for the lasting memories we created.   From dancing on Main Street, to the excitement of bringing home a new plush friend, I was pleasantly reminded how good a little dose of Disney magic is for the soul.

– Christine Fiorelli

The Magic is Calling.

Contact Fairytale Dreams & Destinations to Answer the Call Today!

(905) 857.3611 | 1.855.FDMAGIC
10 McEwan Drive West Unit 3 Bolton ON L7E 1H1
www.fairytaledestinations.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Fairytale Dreams & Destinations Celebrates 20 Years!

Monday, December 13th, 2021

A friend of Belle’s with my niece, Martine – who is now in her second year of University.

20 years ago?  Wasn’t that like 1980?  I’m sure it was.  But I digress.  My how time flies.  Back in 2001, I was working as a graphic designer in the marketing department at TST Overland Express.  And I absolutely LOVED both my job and the people I worked with.  But as someone who grew up visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, I was often asked for advice by friends and family when they were planning their own vacations to the happiest place on earth. Which restaurant has the best pizza?  Where can I meet Cinderella?  How much does the monorail cost?   I realized that there was a niche market that the travel industry was missing out on.  So, I worked hard to remedy the situation.

My dad with a friend of Belle’s at our Open House in 2008.

It feels like just yesterday that I told my dad I was thinking about going back to school to get my diploma in Travel and Tourism because I wanted to help people vacation to Walt Disney World.  He responded, “what’s the worst thing that happens, you learn something”?  And learn something I did.  Having first-hand experience of Walt Disney World is excellent knowledge to have for this business, but having familiarity about passport rules, travel insurance, cancellation policies, airlines, exceptional organizational skills and more is equally as important.

About seven months later, with a new diploma in hand, I aligned myself with a local storefront travel agency here in Bolton.  And it didn’t take long to be known as the “local Disney Specialist”.  My goal was to make a little bit of money in my spare time to purchase blinds that I desperately wanted to get for the house.  Creating magical vacations was intended to be just a hobby, but it quickly turned into much more than that.  Before I knew it – I was so busy – that with the full support of my husband, I opted to leave the job I loved, bought out the travel agency I was working with and turned the business into specializing solely in Disney Destinations.

The Christening of the Disney Dream

I started out with just a website and an email.  Social media and methods of advertisement such as Facebook and Instagram have only been around for about half of our existence.  As such, word of mouth was (and still is) our very best form of advertisement.  And as per TICO (Travel Industry Council of Ontario), we had to conduct business in a storefront.  We started out on the second floor in the building next to the Home Hardware right on Highway 50 in Bolton.  It was a fantastic space, and many local raccoon families agreed and moved in.  To the point that working along-side our furry friends became a challenge, so we moved to another second floor building down the street, but the lack of heat kept us from staying there after just one cold Canadian winter.  Finally, back in 2010 we moved to 10 McEwan Drive West, Unit #3 and have been here ever since.

The Christening of the Disney Fantasy

Like any other small business, we’ve had our share of ups and downs.  My hairdresser once said to me “the thing with owning a business is you can’t get too low on the lows, but you also can’t get too high on the highs.” And truer words have never been spoken, as any business can change directions on a dime.  20 years is a long time.  We’ve were here during the great recession, when the Zika virus emerged, during Hurricane Irma and of course, a world-wide pandemic.  But luckily – each time – a high wasn’t too far behind.  The current pent-up demand to travel after almost two years of staying at home is a great example of one.

I’ve seen so many changes, such as prior to 2005, you didn’t need to make any dining reservations at Walt Disney World.   It’s true!  You would just show up at Chef Mickey’s, put your name in at the restaurant podium, have a drink at Horizons while you waited for a table, and you were good to go.  Ahhh the good old days!

Over the years, we had so much interest from our Guests in visiting Universal Orlando (and more specifically, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter), that we decided to check it out for ourselves.  After our visit to Hogwarts in 2013, we expanded our business beyond Disney Destinations, and we’ve been working with The Universal Orlando Resort ever since.  We were here for the Christening of both the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.  For the inception of Adventures by Disney, the building of Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, the opening of Cars Land at the Disneyland Resort and many more exciting new experiences.

The Team of Fairytale Dreams & Destinations, Christmas 2019

Our team has since grown to ten strong.  We are small, but mighty…like Ant-Man.  And our Vacation Specialists truly are the very best at what they do.  Naturally, they bring their own years of personal experience to their role.  But it’s not about how many trips they’ve taken or how many resorts they’ve stayed at, because it’s not a contest.   They are the best at what they do because they can put their own preferences aside and listen to YOUR needs and wants. They will then take that information to create a personalized vacation of what matters to you and your family most.  Not your co-worker’s family, not your neighbour’s family, nor the family you met in a Facebook group, but YOUR family.  Furthermore, we work as a team with our Guests.  Which means if your Fairytale Dreams & Destinations’ Vacation Specialist is ever under the weather or away from the office, there will be another Vacation Specialist attending to your vacation in their absence.

Hearing the wonderful vacation memories from our Guests after they return home is by far one of the highlights about this profession.  It is a very rewarding career, especially when we help make beautiful memories, such as a vacation in celebration of a loved one.  And the blessing of time has allowed us to form a bond with some of our Guests.  But I can’t even begin to tell you how old I feel when the children of Guests I booked 10+ years ago contact me to book a vacation with their new spouse and family!  However, I’ve recently learned that only 25% of new businesses make it to 15 years or more.  So, maybe Fairytale Dreams & Destinations isn’t good because we are old – but rather – we’re old because we’re good.

So, thank you for trusting us with your magical vacation memories over these past 20 years and for giving us work that we enjoy so thoroughly.  We would not be here without YOU!

– Christine Fiorelli

Contact Fairytale Dreams & Destinations to Book Your Magical Vacation Today!

(905) 857.3611 | 1.855.FDMAGIC
10 McEwan Drive West Unit 3 Bolton ON L7E 1H1
www.fairytaledestinations.com


Why You Should Book Your 2022 Walt Disney World Vacation NOW!

Friday, November 19th, 2021

As well all know, ‘two weeks to flatten the curve’ has turned into 18 months and counting.  We are all COVID tired.  Tired of listening to the news, tired of worrying, tired of keeping up with current rules and regulations just to step outside of our homes.  Granted, nowadays, we can go out to the movies, visit friends, dine at a favourite restaurant and more, but that really isn’t enough.

Disney Enchantment Nighttime Show at the Magic Kingdom

Maybe it’s because some of us are still working from home against our preference, or because we are still monitoring on-line learning or maybe it’s just because we’ve had one zoom call too many.  Whatever the reason, COVID has all caught up with all of us.

So what better way to take a break from this vicious cycle we’ve all been living in than taking a much-needed vacation?  And where else would we vacation to than somewhere to reward our children for being so patient, a place where our entire family can have fun together and where magic exists.  The Walt Disney World Resort is already a bucket list vacation on any given day and a yearly vacation destination for many.  Add this COVID nonsense into the mix and the yearning to visit The Most Magical Place on Earth is stronger than ever before.

Unlike other vacation destinations, most people don’t book a Walt Disney World vacation last minute.  To the contrary, most visitors book it at least six months out.  Which is the right thing to do.  Why?  Because the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is the most popular vacation destination in North America.  In fact, did you know Walt Disney World in Florida welcomes more tourists in a calendar year than the entire cruise industry combined?  Even with Walt Disney World’s 25+ resorts, it can and DOES sell out.  In fact, at this time, there is very limited availability at all of their 25+ resort hotels for travel through until April, 2022!

Why am I telling you this?  Because if you’re even possibly considering a Walt Disney World Vacation in 2022, to encourage you to lock in a refundable vacation reservation as soon as possible.  There will not be any ‘last minute deals’ anytime soon.  There will however be next to no vacancy for a very long time to come.

Beacons of Magic at Epcot

Which leads me to my next point as to why you should book now. Cancellation policies are the number one reason why at Fairytale Dreams & Destinations, we choose to solely work with The Walt Disney Travel Company.  When booking your vacation to the Walt Disney World Resort with us, only a $200 USD deposit would be due at time of booking.  That deposit is FULLY REFUNDABLE up to 30 days prior to departure.  This small deposit allows you to book your preferred travel time, at the resort of your choice, and it allows us to begin working with your family to reserve your much needed theme park reservations and create your daily itinerary.  So, in short, there is absolutely no risk in booking so far in advance.

The demand to travel post-COVID is REAL and it’s about to get stronger.  The Canadian government has already lifted the ban on international travel.  Vaccines are about to become readily available for children ages 5-11 and there is progress on lifting the molecular test requirement for Canadians to return home.

If you are even thinking of vacationing to The Walt Disney World Resort in 2022, put a deposit down now.  If you wait it out, you risk losing the availability.  After all, isn’t visiting the Most Magical Place on Earth the best medicine to move away from COVID?  And if anyone needs some of that magic right about now, it’s every single one of us.

– Christine Fiorelli

The Magic is Calling.  Contact Fairytale Dreams & Destinations to Answer the Call Today!

(905) 857.3611 | 1.855.FDMAGIC
10 McEwan Drive West Unit 3 Bolton ON L7E 1H1
www.fairytaledestinations.com

 

 

 


Yes, it is Safe to Vacation to Walt Disney World

Monday, November 8th, 2021

The Magic is Calling You to the World’s Most Magical Celebration

Due to my line of work, I’ve been fortunate enough to return to the Walt Disney World Resort three times since the summer.  More specifically, three times since the Canadian air border opened back up following its 17-month closure due to COVID.  I first returned in late August.  At the time, the state of Florida was at its peak with COVID cases, experiencing over 25,000 new cases a day.  That number has been on the decline ever since, averaging under 1,500 cases a day at the time I write this.  In fact, based on daily averages, the Sunshine State now has the lowest number of COVID cases among the 50 United States of America.

I can attest firsthand (three times now) that it IS safe to travel to Florida.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask the Canadian government, who back on October 21st, quietly lifted the advisory against non-essential international travel for the first time since March 2020.  As of today, when visiting the United States of America, you can exercise normal security precautions.  Which means that the overall safety and security situation is similar to Canada.   Even better is that with the travel advisory no longer in place, it is once again possible to purchase travel insurance.

So, what exactly is it like to travel to Walt Disney World today?  I think it’s important to know the answer to that question because I have a sneaking suspicion that COVID will be with us in some capacity for many years to come.  And I don’t about you, but I don’t plan on letting it stop me from enjoying my magical vacations any longer.

As restrictions for international travel continue to be lifted, we expect the requirements I’m about to discuss to change in the coming weeks and months.  However, the following are the rules as they stand right now.

A Negative Antigen Test is Required to Enter the United States

In case you live under a rock, in order to board a plane into the United States from Canada, all Guests age 12+ must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  And speaking as an AstraZeneca/Pfizer mixed recipient, I can assure you that ANY combination of Heath Canada approved vaccines is acceptable.  Additionally, all passengers ages two and older need to submit a negative COVID-19 antigen test no more than 72 hours prior to their scheduled flight time.  The key word here is ‘scheduled’.  Which means if you have your negative test in hand and your airline delays your flight, your test is still valid to board your flight.  Select Walmart and Shoppers Drug Mart’s offer this Antigen test.  The cost ranges from $20 – $40 per person and you’ll have your results in about 15 minutes.  I like to schedule this test along with my ‘day before travel’ preparations, so I get it taken care of right before my mani-pedi.

On the day of departure – unless you are actively eating or drinking – be prepared to wear a mask from the moment you get to the Toronto airport, during your entire flight and while at the Orlando International Airport.  Yes, the day of your flight involves a lot of mask wearing.  My advice is to opt for one of the blue disposable ones.  As adorable as your homemade or purchased cloth masks are, the disposable ones are far more breathable for such a long day.  Side tip, I always use these masks when visiting the hair salon on my two+ hour visit for my colour, cut, and blow dry!

The Disney company follows all CDC guidelines.  Therefore, masks are currently required at indoor locations at the Walt Disney World Resort.  This includes restrooms and indoor queues.  Given the fact that you will be taking your mask on and off regularly, I HIGHLY recommend opting for shorts with pockets for easy access.  Another good option (especially for children) is using a mask strap to easily carry it around your neck.

The All New Harmonious Nighttime Show at Epcot

I went to Vaughan Mills last month and there were more people in the halls here than there were while standing in ANY indoor queue at a Disney theme Park.  However, roughly 20% of the people at Vaughan Mills were not wearing their masks properly or simply not at all.  I’ve said it before and it bears repeating, there is no such thing as mask exemptions at the Walt Disney World Resort.  If you can’t wear a mask, Disney’s response is ‘now is not the time for you to visit our theme parks’.  So, you won’t see masks hanging under anyone’s nose on the monorail, nor will you see anyone arguing about having to put a mask on like I witness all too often here at home.

Before you know it, a good time was had by all and it’s time to come back home.  To do so, all travellers ages five years and older must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of their scheduled flight time to return to Canada.  You must also upload your proof of vaccination and negative test in the ArriveCAN app.

Fast Test Now Offers Same Day PCR Test Results

I can’t stress enough that this process sounds SO much more difficult than it is.  There are a few ways to obtain the test and costs associated with it range from $0 to $149 USD per person.  Rest assured that your Vacation Specialist will advise you on how to go about obtaining this test at or near the Walt Disney World Resort.  Collectively, our team has undergone this task about a dozen times now, so we are very familiar with the procedure and are here to walk you through the process when the time comes for your family to prepare for it.   Most importantly, all the places we have sourced out (and used ourselves) will only perform the non-invasive/lower nasal swabs for this test.  Because naturally we all want to avoid having a Q-tip shoved up our nostril to our brain whenever possible.

My personal favourite option for this test is from Switch Health.  These tests are purchased before leaving home.  You bring the test with you, then with a mobile device and internet connection (and from the comfort of your Walt Disney World Resort hotel room), you perform the test in front of a technician and will have your test results in about 30 minutes!  The only challenge is that because this option is so popular, it often sells out.

I personally like to take the test as close to that 72-hour mark as possible.  Not because it’s difficult, but because I don’t want to associate the test with my vacation being over.  I want to have MORE fun after the fact!  This way, I can enjoy my last few days in the theme parks before having to think about coming back home.

The last thing to be aware of is that unvaccinated children must avoid group settings for two weeks following their visit to the United States.  Once Health Canada approves the vaccine for children ages 5-11 and little ones can be protected, this rule will of course be lifted.

So, as a quick re-cap, the current steps that must be taken are:

  • Guests ages 12+ must be vaccinated against COVID-19
  • Guests ages two and older must provide a negative antigen test to fly into the United States
  • Guests ages two and older must wear masks at all indoor locations during travel and while at the Walt Disney World Resort
  • Guests ages five and older must provide a negative COVID test and upload results to ArriveCan to fly home
  • Unvaccinated children must avoid group settings for 14 days

The big question is if taking these few extra steps are worth it to answer the call of the magic?  You bet your bottom dollar that they are!  After all, you can’t visit the edge of the galaxy over zoom.

– Christine Fiorelli

The Magic is Calling.  Contact Fairytale Dreams & Destinations to Answer the Call Today!

(905) 857.3611 | 1.855.FDMAGIC
10 McEwan Drive West Unit 3 Bolton ON L7E 1H1
www.fairytaledestinations.com


Letting Myself “WOAH”

Thursday, October 14th, 2021

Globus & Mundi Travel Agency at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley

I recently returned for the first time since pre COVID from a wonderful three night stay at Universal Orlando Resort.  The main purpose of my visit was to experience two new attractions that opened while the US/Canadian border was closed, The Bourne Stuntacular located in Universal Studios and VelociCoaster found inside Islands of Adventure.

If you’ve never visited before, the first thing that you need to know about the Universal Orlando Resort is that it is NOT the same as the resort complex down the street.  And that is a FANTASTIC thing.  I mean why would you want to spend your vacation time and money on a similar experience?  Universal is many things, but above all else, it’s an absolute must do for Harry Potter fans and/or thrill seekers.  I happen to fall into the latter category.

The Ukrainian Ironbelly perched on top of Gringotts Bank

Not that I dislike Harry Potter, but I never cared for the franchise.  I did read all seven books and saw the corresponding movies.  Ok, that’s not entirely true.  I read six and a half books.  I was so bored when I reached the tent scene in the Deathly Hallows, that I stopped reading and asked my husband to tell me how it ends.  So – unlike most – my enjoyment for Harry Potter didn’t come from reading the books or watching the movies.  It came in 2012 during my very first visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter when I felt as though the pages of the books came to life before me.  And now, it’s safe to say that experiencing it has turned me into a fan of the Harry Potter franchise.

Theming at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is like nothing you’ve ever come across before.  You can stroll the streets of London and enter Diagon Alley, where you will find some of the wizarding world’s most famous establishments.  Beneath the fire breathing Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon, you can join Harry, Ron and Hermione as they hunt for a horcrux and face off against he who must not be named.  You can dine at the Leaky Cauldron, pick up a magical gag at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, shop for school robes and so much more.

Hogwarts Castle at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade

After you have all your school supplies, you can travel through platform 9¾ and take the Hogwarts Express over to Hogsmeade.  This snow-capped wizarding village is filled with enchanted wand shops and more.  At the top of the village, you’ll find Hogwarts Castle, where thanks to a spell from Hermione, you’ll take flight and soar above the castle.  You can also go well beyond the school grounds to join Hagrid and venture into the Forbidden Forest.  And when you’re ready for a drink, I highly recommend the frozen butterbeer, as I simply can’t get enough of this butterscotch and marshmallow deliciousness.

While several muggles will spend a lot of time exploring both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, there is much to experience at the Universal theme parks beyond the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  So after my second butterbeer and too many chocolate frogs, I was ready to check out my first of two new experiences: The Bourne Stuntacular.

This show replaced the “SUPER” Terminator 2: 3D, a show I thoroughly enjoyed sitting through every time I visited Universal Studios.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Terminator 2: 3D was a live show, where performers interacted with a 3D film.  The effects of this show were excellent for its time.  But The Bourne Stuntacular has taken those same effects, picked them up and ran away with them.

The Bourne Stuntacular Poster at Universal Studios

If you’ve never seen the Bourne movies, go ahead and watch them all right now.  Go on, I’ll wait.  But all you really need to know to enjoy Stuntacular is that Jason Bourne is on the run, he’s dangerous and he’s the good guy.

In The Bourne Stuntacular, you’ll observe fistfights, helicopters, high-speed car chases and more, all thanks to a 130 ft wide, 28 ft tall screen that blends in seamlessly with mobile set pieces.  And in a similar fashion to its predecessor, the action transitions between live performance to the screen and back again.  As much as I enjoyed Terminator 2: 3D, The Bourne Stuntacular is by far the best stunt show I’ve ever seen and is the textbook example on how to make a great attraction even better.

Jurassic Park area of Islands of Adventure

I purposely saved riding VelociCoaster for last.  Because not only am I a thrill seeker, but one of my all-time favourite movie franchises is Jurassic Park.  As such, I’ve always loved the theming and details found in this area of Islands of Adventure.  So, I was over the moon when I heard that Universal built a roller coaster in the middle of the Raptor paddock!

Taking a lesson from John Hammond, Universal “spared no expense” when building VelociCoaster.  The story for this ride takes place right before the first Jurassic World movie.  Once here, you have entered Jurassic World Resort and are about to race through the velociraptor paddock with “trained” raptors racing alongside you.  The indoor (yay, air conditioning!) queue will keep you entertained, and fans will very much enjoy the nod to Dr. Ian Malcolm and other clever Easter eggs from the original 1993 Jurassic Park movie.

As for the coaster itself?  Hold on to your butts.  No matter how much you mentally prepare yourself, you won’t be ready for the launch.  And after the fact, you will be too busy screaming from your first of four inversions to think about it again.  The ride pauses briefly in the paddock area before launching you even faster, this time at 70 miles per hour in only 2.4 seconds, pushing you 155 feet into the air and then immediately dropping into an 80-degree vertical drop.

Indoor Queue at VelociCoaster

You might think at this point, the coaster is going to slow down and return to its loading station.  But you would be wrong because you can’t race with raptors without experiencing a 360-degree barrel roll just inches above water!  And if you enjoy zero gravity – the sensation of floating in your seat – you’ll feel it about a dozen times throughout VelociCoaster.

Did I mention that all this takes place while strapped in only with a lap bar?  I’m not going to lie; I didn’t even notice the raptors because I was too busy fearing for my life.  The VelociCoaster is relentless and extremely intense, but the design of the vehicle and tracks make for an unbelievably smooth experience.

If you have visited the Orlando area and have not yet made your way over to Universal Orlando Resort, you truly don’t know what you’re missing.  Here, you can play, scream and laugh all at the same time.  So, live in the moment, embark on your epic adventure and let yourself “WOAH”!

– Christine Fiorelli

Everyone Needs a Fairytale.  Contact Fairytale Dreams & Destinations to Take Back the Magic Today!

(905) 857.3611 | 1.855.FDMAGIC
10 McEwan Drive West Unit 3 Bolton ON L7E 1H1
www.fairytaledestinations.com

 

 


Fairytale Dreams & Destinations
Fairytale Dreams & Destinations™ Inc. exclusively sells the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Disneyland Resort in California, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort in South Carolina, Disney's Vero Beach Resort in Florida, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii and the Universal, Orlando Resort.

Fairytale Dreams and Destinations™ Inc. is an Ontario Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) authorized travel agency. TICO is an organization mandated by the Ontario Government to administer the Travel Industry Act, 2002 and an industry financed travel compensation fund. TICO Registration # 50010111
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