Archive for June, 2009

Reviews of Manta Coaster at Sea World

June 22, 2009

Ride the Manta!

Ride face first on the Manta!

The monthly meeting of the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association was held at Sea World to allow us to ride the new Manta coaster. We arrived at 8:00am, an hour before opening, so there were no lines. At 9am, as we went from Manta to our meeting, we fought our way through the throng of Sea World guests who arrived precisely at opening time and rushed to Manta.

Here are some reviews from my colleagues in the vacation rental home industry:

“Manta–4 G’s of sheer excitement, terror & back-against-your-seat entertainment! The last row is the best place to be!” –Michael Crandell

“I didn’t ride Manta because of a back problem but the aquarium was fantastic.”-Nigel Worrall, F. Leisure

“Finally, a line I don’t mind waiting in…getting there is half the fun. -Sondra Steele

“Manta–Awesome, fantastic and other adjectives that cannot be printed.  What more can I say? -Ian Pardoe, President CFVRMA

“I was a little too fat to ride it.  Thanks, Sea World, for giving me the motivation to lose weight!” -# 1 Son

Stingrays while you wait

Stingrays while you wait

“I didn’t ride Manta because my brother couldn’t ride it to give me some confidence, but I did go in the aquarium.  It was absolutely beautiful. Even if you don’t ride Manta, ‘there’s always a compromise.'” -# 1 Daughter

“Manta was extremely exciting and thrilling; one of those rides you must go on at least twice. The best part of the ride is the spins.” -Ashley Cobb

“I rode a roller coaster in Kansas City and when the cars reached the port–The whole ride fell to the ground. So I didn’t ride Manta” -Judy Braland

“I hated it. Don threw up, Pluto urinated on one of the support beams. There are much better coasters at Disney.” -Mick E. Mice (Not my real name)

“Breathtaking! A roller coaster like no other. A must do at Sea World!” -Steve Kliamenakis

“Manta was all the thrill seeking adventure I could imagine bottled up into one ride. -Brad L.

“Unfortunately, I was too big to fit into the Manta seats.  Why is it that I can ride every coaster at Disney, but the coaster designers at Universal, Sea World and Busch Gardens can’t figure out how to build a coaster that fits everybody? -Anonymous

“Manta–Wow! I won’t ride it but the aquariums are incredible.” -Keith Brady

“Inconceivable!” -Vizzini, the Sicilian from The Princess Bride movie

After our Manta preview, we had a talk by Brian Morrow, the director of Design & Engineering for Sea World.  He began by telling us that he was responsible for the design of everything at Sea World from “bathrooms to roller coasters.”  I was not quite sure if it was a good idea for him to put both of them in the same sentence?

Here are some of the most asked questions and facts about Manta:

How tall to ride Manta?

How tall to ride Manta?

“How tall to ride Manta Coaster?” 54 inches.

“How tall is the Manta Coaster?” 140 feet with the longest drop being 113 feet.

“How long is the Manta ride?” Just over two and a half minutes.

“How fast does Manta go?” Up to 56 miles per hour.

“How many loops, twists and spins does Manta have?” Manta speeds riders through four showcase inversions, including two in-line spins, one flat spin and one pretzel loop. But the specially crafted rails make Manta one of the world’s smoothest coasters. There are lots of other twists and turns as well.

“How many aquariums are at the beginning of the ride queue?” 10, including some that have stingrays circling overhead and one that smaller guests can “pop up” into with fish swimming all around them.

“Who manufactured the Manta coaster?” Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M) of Monthey, Switzerland.

Please feel free to add your own review by leaving your comments about Manta!

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New Kim Possible Attraction at Disney World

June 5, 2009

Your mission starts here!

Your mission starts here!

When Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman in 1932, the mythical citizens of Metropolis would one day look upwards and introduce him with the voiceover, “Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird…it’s a plane…no, it’s Superman.”

In 2009, a modern superhero, Kim Possible, has become the subject of the newest attraction at Disney World.  Now, theme park enthusiasts can point to this attraction and proclaim, “Look, in Disney World, it’s a new ride…it’s a new show…no, it’s…uh…it’s…uh…what the heck kind of attraction is this, anyway?”

Disney has long been known for their creative, cutting edge concepts and the Kim Possible attraction is no exception.  It is unlike any theme park attraction I have ever seen.  Which also makes it very difficult to describe.

Just a rock?

Just a rock?

The attraction is located at World Showcase in EPCOT.  World Showcase is the back half of EPCOT.  There is a large lake surrounded by 11 different “countries.”  Each country is a collection of buildings, shops, restaurants and attractions representing the culture and architecture of that country.  For example, in Japan you will find two Japanese restaurants, a pagoda, a Japanese water and meditation garden, a rock garden and several gift shops selling authentic Japanese items.

When you enter a “country” in EPCOT, the experience feels like you are really in that country.  The music you hear is from that country.  The restaurant is a copy of an identical restaurant from that country and is run by the same people.  Even all the Disney “cast members” (Disney’s term for their employees) within a country are from that country.

Seven of the eleven countries in EPCOT’s World Showcase have a Kim Possible adventure within the country.

Recruitment Station

Recruitment Station

To participate in the Kim Possible attraction, you first stop by a small cart, called a recruitment center.  There are two of them at EPCOT.   One is at the Innovations Pavilion at the front half of EPCOT.  The other is located on the Odyssey Bridge between the countries of France and United Kingdom in the World Showcase part of EPCOT.

At the cart, you are given your “Kimmunicator”–Something Disney refers to as an “interactive, handheld, cell-phone-like device using state-of-the-art technology.”  But to you it will look like an ordinary cell phone.  You also receive a piece of paper with a time and country in World Showcase where you go to begin your adventure.

Each member of your party can get their own “Kimmunicator” or everyone can enjoy the attraction with just one.  Number One Daughter received her assignment to go to the United Kingdom while Number One Son’s assignment was in Germany.  At the end of the assignment, your Kimmunicator asks if you would like another assignment.  In this way, Number One Daughter also got to pursue the evil villains in Japan.

Hunting Villians in the UK

Hunting Villians in the UK

The fancy cell phone, uh, Kimmunicator, can be activated when you arrive at your country at the prescribed time.  Here is where the attraction becomes very interesting.  The display on your Kimmunicator comes to life with a short video of Kim Possible and reveals the story line involving one of seven different villains (a different one for each country.)  You are then instructed to go to someplace that is identified within that country.  Once there, your Kimmunicator will activate something that everyone else around you assumes is only a display item.  For example, in the United Kingdom a large nutcracker soldier inside a window display comes to life and gives you important information to complete your mission.  In Japan, a large rock inside the meditation garden would magically display a Japanese Kanji Character when activated by the Kimmunicator as part of the story line to destroy the evil villain.  In the United Kingdom, one of the workers at the Tea Shoppe gives you the gift of a tea bag if you say the magic word to her, as told to you by the Kimmunicator.

Not Just a Rock!

Not Just a Rock!

There are four or five different videos for each mission which takes place in one of the participating seven countries–Each video gives you more information about your evil villain then instructions for where to go to activate the next special part of your mission.  Once completed, your evil villain is defeated, you (and Kim Possible) are victorious and your Kimmunicator gets dumped into a specific location that also appears to everyone else around you to be simply part of the ornamentation of that country.  In Germany, Number One Daughter dumped her Kimmunicator into the specified barrel sitting in the middle of the town square.

Recycling:  Super-Spy Style!

Recycling: Super-Spy Style!

What made this attraction so much fun was the ability to do it in the middle of EPCOT with all the other tourists walking around you; oblivious to what you were doing.  Afterwards, it became fun to watch other people doing the attraction and knowing what they were up to while people just passed them by, assuming they were merely using their cell phones.

Our children seemed to enjoy this attraction a lot.  But what was really fun was watching families with even younger children who obviously have seen the Kim Possible TV show and who were just tickled pink to use the Kimmunicator to activate the displays.  In Japan, for example, one of the Kimmunicator instructions sent a signal to a rock in the middle of the water meditation garden and created a waterfall right in front of your eyes.  It was cool.

Even my good friend, Jedibfa, who is a long way from being a youngster, was excited when he heard about the technology necessary to create this unique attraction.  Hopefully, it won’t be long before he and his friend, Lizthefair, come to visit us in Florida to enjoy the attraction for themselves!

#1 Spies

#1 Spies

Movie Theatres near Disney World

June 2, 2009
Orlando Movies

Downtown Disney Marketplace

Before living in Florida and starting our own vacation rental home company, we used to vacation to the mouse from out of state, just like ordinary tourists, who have inspired the creation of the ubiquitous, yet incredibly rude, bumper sticker:  “Welcome to Florida, now GO HOME!”

During those trips, we would often do something that surprised me.  We would watch a movie at a movie theatre.

It seems ironic that we were in the vacation/theme park/attraction capital of the world, yet we would do something that we could have easily done back home.  It seems like, I don’t know, somehow we were cheating.  But we always enjoyed our movie night by the mouse.  Somehow it felt special.  Perhaps it was the mixture of the old and familiar in new surroundings that made a movie by the mouse seem more special than a movie back home.

Obviously we’re not alone in this, as there are many places near Disney World to enjoy a movie.  If you are visiting the mouse and want to go out for a movie, here are my picks for where to catch a flick.

At the Downtown Disney Marketplace, AMC has a 24 screen theatre.  This might prove the easiest place to go, especially if you are staying on Disney property.  And with 24 screens, it is a safe bet there will be a movie playing that you want to see whenever you arrive.  Major releases show as often as every half hour on five or more screens.  There are also plenty of great restaurants, such as Wolfgang Pucks, House of Blues, Bongo’s Cuban Cafe, and Planet Hollywood, literally right outside one of the theatre entrances and T-Rex Cafe or Rainforest Cafe within walking distance.  However, it also ranks at the top of my list of worst places to see a movie.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it’s too big and impersonal, perhaps it’s the overcrowdedness, perhaps it’s because it always cost more to see a movie here, maybe it’s because Disney can sometimes feel like it traps you and you want to try something outside the resort.

By far, the best places to see a movie in Central Florida are the Enzian Theatre in Maitland or the Tampa Theatre in Tampa.  Both theatres show primarily arthouse movies and I will describe them in detail in other posts.  The third best place to see a movie is for free–It’s the nightly Disney flick that shows, along with a Chip and Dale sing-a-long and campfire cookout, at the Fort Wilderness Campground in the Disney Resort.

Another great movie theatre is the Regal Cinema 20 + IMAX at Pointe Orlando near the Orange County Convention Center.  This theatre features not only state of the art theatres and sound, but an enormous IMAX screen that regularly shows first run movies in 180 degrees.  Parking in the parking garage can be a pain and you have to remember to validate your parking pass.  Having the ticket booth on the ground floor while the entrance to the theatre on the second floor is another annoyance.  But these are soon forgotten when you enter the creatively decorated theatre house and snuggle into your seat.

The most convenient place to watch a movie is the Regal Cinema’s Stadium Theatre 16 located at The Loop shopping center on the corner of Osceola Parkway and John Young Parkway.  Other nice and convenient theatre locations are the 20 theatres at Cinemark at the Festival Bay Mall on the north end of International Drive and the Park Theatres in the Winter Park Village north of Orlando.

There are also nice movie theatres in Citywalk at Universal Orlando.  Like Downtown Disney, there are lots of great restaurants outside the door, but parking is a hassle and costs $12 if you go too early in the day.

But the best place to enjoy a movie near Disney World is at one of the two theatres in downtown Celebration.  According to rumor, Disney would only give AMC permission to build their 24 theatre multiplex in Downtown Disney if they agreed to build two, state of the art theatres in 1997 in their new hometown.  No matter how popular the movie, these theatres are almost never sold out.  Right in front of the theatres is a great fountain that shoots jets of water directly from the sidewalk.  Kids love to run through the area, sometimes daring to avoid the jets, other times purposefully dousing themselves.  All of this on the edge of the downtown lake where you can enjoy quaint shopping experiences, sit on a large rocking chair on the dock of the lake, or enjoy a meal at one of the excellent Celebration restaurants such as The Columbia, Celebration Town Tavern, Market Street Cafe, Kilwin’s Chocolate and Ice Cream, Seito Sushi Japanese, Sherlock’s of Celebration, Upper Crust Pizza, or my personal favorite, Cafe D’Antonio’s.

Enjoy your movie and pass the popcorn.