Copyright J. S. Raynor 2017
Chapter One : A Universal Welcome
The taxi came to an abrupt halt at the huge, metal entrance gates of the Hard Rock Hotel at universal studios in Florida. “This is quite a queue – are you somebody famous?” The middle-aged taxi driver asked this question of her British occupants, Steve and Suzanne Kennedy with their children, Jason and Rebecca.
“I wish” Steve smiled at her question, but knew that if there was anybody famous visiting the hotel, it most certainly was not him.
As the taxi crept slowly towards the entrance, the driver said, “I hope they are quick – I have a pick-up at eight.”
Steve looked at his watch and, realising that it was seven forty five, knew she would have difficulty making her appointment. Then he suddenly realised the reason for the delay. “It’s the last Thursday in the month and they always have a live band on this night. I’d forgotten about that.”
This did not lesson the obvious anxiety of the taxi driver, but, thankfully, the cars began to move, allowing access to the area in front of the main reception hall. The British family climbed out of the air-conditioned taxi, the heat from the Florida night air hitting them as they emerged. They retrieved their suitcases with the help of the taxi driver. “That will be fifty-seven dollars, please.”
She seemed quite pleased when Steve declined change from the notes he handed to her. The hotel had advised him that the fare would be around this amount, which he thought to be quite reasonable for the lengthy journey. She gave him an appreciative smile and climbed back into her car, eager to make her next appointment without too much delay.
Steve and his family pulled their suitcases up the incline into the reception hall, only to be met by a tremendous, deafening noise. Several hundred people were gathered in the huge hallway, all talking excitedly as they waited for the, presumably well-known, rock group to appear.
The noise was so loud that it was difficult to converse with the receptionist. Steve handed over a print-out of the confirmation email to ease their communication. After a few, ear-shattering minutes, she handed over four plastic door keys to him, indicating the direction to the lifts. “You need to insert your room key in the lift to access the seventh floor”, she shouted, her voice barely audible above the continuous background noise.
The four pulled their cases towards the lift corridor, Rebecca eagerly pressing the call button. There were six lifts and soon a door opened, allowing them inside. At last, they could now speak without having to shout to be heard.
Jason, a skinny, long-haired fourteen-year old, asked, “Why do you need the room key for the lift, Dad?”
Steve smiled as he placed his room key into the slot above the buttons and then pressed number seven. “The seventh floor is an exclusive Club level.”
“Cool!” Steve knew his son would appreciate the extra benefits of this Club level. Jason had been asking him if they could stay in the Hard Rock Hotel for years and, after several refusals, his Dad had decided, at last, to give him this treat, along with a few other surprises.
Rock music was playing in the lift and pictures of several stars adorned the walls. A huge mirror covered the whole of the roof to the lift, giving a somewhat strange visual effect within this confined space.
As they emerged from the lift, they found a welcoming central area with the lounge bar and three corridors leading off. Looking at the wall plates indicating the range of room numbers for each corridor, they determined which to walk along.
Suzanne found room 7090 and inserted her key, pushing the heavy door open. The four dragged their cases into the large room and looked around the spacious place where they would spend the next ten nights. Although they had stayed at Disneyworld several years earlier, this was their first holiday at universal Studios and today, Thursday, twenty fifth of July, two thousand and nineteen would be a very memorable day.
Many pictures of rock legends adorned the walls, continuing the theme of the hotel. This was Steve and Suzanne’s room, with a Queen-sized bed.
Jason noticed the connecting door and pulled it open. “Cool!” This typical teenage response reflected his satisfaction with the twin-bedded room he would share with his younger sister. Each room had its own bathroom, wardrobe and high-definition flat-panel television.
While everyone else was looking around the room, Suzanne was standing near the large window, admiring the view. ”Look!” She was pointing at a huge structure in the distance.
Steve followed her gaze and realised what she had seen. “It’s Hogwarts! What a fantastic view. I think this is going to be our best holiday, ever.” He pulled his wife close, giving her a hug and kiss. The couple gazed, almost spellbound, through the window at the panorama laid out before them. It was nearly dusk and many colourful lights added to the magic of the world-famous theme park laid out below them.
Their gaze over this scene was interrupted by their daughter. “I’m hungry!” Nine-year old Rebecca had not eaten much while on the flight from Manchester, as she had never enjoyed in-flight meals. “Can we get a snack, now?”
“Yes. We’ll try the lounge bar.” The four left their luggage unpacked and walked back along the corridor. The double glass doors to the lounge were closed and, when a room key was inserted into a slot near the door, it opened automatically.
Snacks and drinks were laid out at one end of the room and most of the small tables had people sitting around them, chatting, noisily. One man seated near to one side of the room, was strumming a guitar while talking to a small group of people. The room had a lively, welcoming atmosphere, adding to the attraction of this world-famous hotel.
The Kennedy family helped themselves to savoury snacks and drinks before looking for somewhere to sit. Many of the people were American and, fortunately, one such family left a table in the far corner of the room, making way for the British family. They took their time with their refreshments, listening to the man with the guitar, who was now playing some recognisable rock classics to an appreciative audience. Suzanne could see that Rebecca, although excited, was really quite tired and it was not long before they returned to their room for the night.
Suzanne soon found the children’s night clothes and, within a few minutes, Rebecca was climbing into her comfortable bed, tired but eagerly looking forward to the next day’s visit to the theme park.
Jason, surprisingly, did not yet feel tired and tried to find something of interest to him on television, knowing that the noise would not stop his sister from falling asleep.
As Steve, Suzanne and their children left the hotel, the next morning, the humid Florida heat hit them. With temperatures in the high nineties, the main challenge of the day was to avoid getting burnt and, with this in mind, Suzanne had covered them all liberally with high-factor sun block. As they walked down the path, they noticed a gate leading to a small jetty. They were given a typically American, friendly greeting by the bearded Captain of the water-taxi and took their seats at the back of the boat. When most seats were occupied, the ropes were cast off and the cruiser moved slowly through the water.
In less than ten minutes, they had reached the entrance to Universal and disembarked. The place was already heaving as they approached the ticket barrier to activate their fourteen day passes. After a few minutes wait, Steve handed over the pass receipt provided by the travel agent, to a tall, heavily-built guy.
“Can I see your passport, sir?” Steve handed it to the man , who looked at him and then the picture on the passport. Satisfied that Steve was the same person, he continued in a deep, monotone voice. It was obvious that he had done this so many times, that the routine had become boring. “Place your index finger on the reader, Sir.” Obediently, Steve pressed it on the glass. After his finger had been scanned, the other members of his family were similarly scanned and each issued with a fourteen-day park pass.
Within a matter of minutes, the family was poring over a map of Universal Studios, trying to agree on which parts to visit first. They, eventually, agreed to let Jason and his dad go on the RIP ride, while Suzanne and Rebecca waited for their return.
As Steve approached the queue, he noticed the alternative “Express” route. “Show your room key and we can get on this ride much quicker.”
Jason followed his dad’s instruction and was amazed how they were allowed to pass the, already lengthy, queue and within a matter of minutes, they were sitting in the ride’s car, ready for the thrill of this well-known attraction. It was obvious when the overhead clamp locked into position, that they were going to experience a stomach-churning ride. After slowly climbing up a steep-incline, the car raced along at incredible speed, twisting and turning in all directions. Many of the car’s occupants were screaming as they were subjected to extreme forces as the car completed a complete circle, racing upside down and sideways.
When the car eventually returned to the station, they disembarked and walked down the incline to meet the rest of the family. They met at the point where photos of every person on the ride were displayed.
“You look terrified, Jason!” Suzanne laughed at the expression on her son’s face. “You looked quite calm, Steve.”
“He always does”, said Jason, enviously. “I don’t know how he can keep so calm. Dad looks as though he is waiting for a nice cup of tea.”
They all laughed, Suzanne finding money to purchase the photograph as a souvenir.
“I’m glad I did not have a big cooked breakfast, this morning”, Steve admitted. “My stomach seemed to feel the effects of all the twists and turns.”
After that, they decided to try more peaceful entertainment in “Minion Mayhem”, one of the many indoor, air-conditioned 4D shows, suitable for all members of the family.
The family braved Jurassic Park, where all four could sit on one of the five rows in a large boat. At first, it moved almost sedately through the water, with supposedly-pre-historic animals lining the banks of what was meant to be a river coursing through a dense jungle. When it entered a huge cavern, the recorded commentary sounded alarms as carnivorous monsters were likely to endanger the lives of the occupants of the boat.
The excitement increased as the boat picked up speed. In an effort to escape the monsters it emerged from the blackness of the cave, dropping eighty feet into water, creating a tremendous splash, which liberally soaked all occupants. Rebecca and Suzanne were not too enamoured with the ride, but Jason and his dad thought it to be thrilling and very enjoyable.
The whole family enjoyed the thrills of the rides at universal Studios over the next few days, especially the thrills and soaking from water rides such as ”Jurassic Park”, but one area they particularly wanted to experience was “Harry Potter”, one of the park’s most popular attractions.
Understandably, it was extremely busy and the queues could result in a very lengthy wait. To make it worse, there was no “Express” route, even with the Hard Rock hotel’s room key, but the family worked out how best to avoid a long queue.
Although the theme park normally opened at nine o’clock, the gates were open at eight for theme park hotel residents and, on the day they had chosen, the family woke early and were at the entrance shortly after eight. Even at this time, there were still many people heading towards Hogwarts. A fifteen minute wait was necessary, but this was a considerable improvement on the usual three hours.
At last, the queue of people snaked its way through the rooms of the famous school of magic. Recordings of voices from the film’s many characters told their own individual stories, every successive room adding to the overall impression so cleverly created by J. K. Rowling in the seven books about the boy wizard.
Inevitably, this being Universal, there had to be a ride within Hogwarts. There were people advising visitors to hurry along on the moving walkways leading up to the ride. Every person had an individual seat, with its own hood and seat clamp. Once the ride began to move, the seats tilted in all directions, while a screen in front of each person gave the illusion of being chased by screaming, fire-belching dragons. It was very effective and every individual agreed that it was a superb experience.
The streets and shops described in the Harry Potter stories had also been recreated and the Kennedy family enjoyed browsing through the shelves of wands, broomsticks and horrible-tasting sweets. These shops were so popular that organisers had to ensure that no more than a permitted number of visitors were in the shops at any one time, closing the doors when it came apparent that the confined spaces were too full.
When it came to the Dueling Dragons, Steve and Jason decided to try the extreme ride, while Rebecca and Suzanne preferred, instead, to just watch.
This was, without doubt, one of the best days for the British family at Universal studios and one they felt, they would remember for many years to come.
Copyright J. S. Raynor, 2013, 2017
Chapter Four : A Halloween Fright
Harry and Emma were sitting at their dining table. Both looked anxious, …
Copyright J. S. Raynor, 2013, 2017
Chapter Three : A Design Flaw
A couple of days later, Harry was, as usual, sitting in his …
Copyright J. S. Raynor, 2013, 2017
Chapter Two : An introduction To Rhonda
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