First time in Orlando

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First time in Orlando is the second part of my 2-weeks long trip to the USA. You can read more about it here.

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Orlando, Florida

Find out a detailed itinerary for this trip here.


We just arrived at Avanti Palms Resort & Conference Centre [AD]. Before we even have a chance to explore the hotel, it starts raining! Our first tropical rain! We don’t bother much, and as soon as the storm calms, we begin to explore the nearby area, i.e. the International Drive (i-drive). We spend our evening at Ripley’s Believe it Or Not!

Ripleys Beleive It Or Not
Hi Robert! Ripley’s Believe It or Not!


First official day and we are off to Universal Studios. We have our express tickets ready (really handy if you don’t have a week to spend here but quite expensive – ok very expensive) and we start. First ride of the day Despicable Me Minion Mayhem™. Then we continue with all the other thrill and family rides, including the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit™Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon™The Simpsons Ride™ and E.T. Adventure™. In general, most of the rides here are 3D/4D rides, which means that we either sit in a theatre that has moving chairs (4D) or get in a vehicle and watch a movie using the glasses as you move along. We finish off the evening at the Hard Rock Cafe Universal Studios, the largest Hard Rock Cafe.

Universal Studios
It may look like New York but we are at Universal Studios, ace Through New York Jimmy Fallon’s Ride! Hint: the red coaster


The theme park of the day is Universals’ Islands of Adventures. We also have an express ticket today, which honestly saves us time, since we finish The Incredible Hulk Coaster® within 20 minutes, rather than having to wait for 1h+. Next, we continue amongst others with The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man®Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges® where we get really wet and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ which maybe is the most realistic ride here! To finish the day, we go for a walk and dinner at Universal City Walk.

Islands of Adventure
We’re here, at Universal’s Island of Adventure


3/5 of our group leave for Cyprus, which means that Christos and I are on our own to explore the other parks! Thus, we wake up early today, take our baggage and change hotel. This time we go to the Best Western Convention Centre Hotel so that we are closer to the other parks. Once there, we leave our stuff at reception and a few minutes before 8 am we arrive at Discovery Cove.

We know about the controversies that exist around the existence of this park and the other SeaWorld attractions concerning animal collection and care. However, we decided to give it a go anyway so that we can have firsthand experience. We even do the dolphin swim. In general, the park is a nice place to relax, and it gives you the feeling that you are at the beach, even though you are surrounded by many pools. We start the day with complimentary breakfast, and then we move on to the Wind-Away River, the Serenity Bay, the Explorer’s Aviary, complimentary lunch, Dolphin Lagoon and we finish with the Grand Reef. The dolphin swim was overall an unforgettable (and expensive) experience, which I admit I wouldn’t do it again in the future. My favourite activity was our last one: snorkelling at the Grand Reef! 

Discovery Cove
Having a nice time at Discovery Cove Tropical Environment


On our today’s agenda is SeaWorld Orlando! It’s much quieter here, and there are not long queues for the rides, even the popular ones. We ride Manta, MakoKraken UnleashedJourney to AtlantisAntarctica: Empire of the PenguinWild Arctic (Ride) and we ascend the Sky Tower even though we need to pay a small entrance fee (unnecessary if you ask me). We, also, see a lot of marine life including dolphins, sea lions, manatees, turtles, stingrays, penguins and many fish.

SeaWorld Orlando
Looking at the penguins. We’re in a 0oC penguin habitat, wearing just a t-shirt! Brrr! SeaWorld Orlando


The last two days of our trip are dedicated to Disney World! We have visited Disneyland Paris before, so this time we decide to visit two of the parks that don’t exist there, namely Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot! Today we are at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and it’s very crowded! We use our free fast pass entrances to skip the line for three attractions, which due to bad planning on my side are scattered around the day and are mainly for less popular attractions. I only booked them the night before, so there weren’t many spaces left. Over the day, we visit many rides and see a lot of animals. I highlight Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, Gorilla Fall Exploration Trail, the Tree of Life, and the Rivers of Light evening light and water show. I would probably have here the Avatar Flight of Passage, but the queue was 2h+, so we didn’t bother to visit. After the park closes, we visit Disney’s Springs for an evening walk, and to have dinner.

Disney's Animal Kingdom
That’s the Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Sony ILCE-5100


It’s our final day today and we spend it at Disney’s Epcot. The majority of the rides are at Future World. My favourite ones are Soarin’ Around the World, Frozen Ever After, Spaceship Earth and Test Track. This park features a World Showcase, where several countries present their culture and traditions, through shops, restaurants and shows. We could spend days just wandering in the different country areas. Clearly, an afternoon isn’t enough to fully witness everything here. To experience the whole of Disney World, you will most probably need 2-3 weeks!. We spend our last evening at Disney Springs before heading back to the hotel! It’s already almost midnight, i.e. we need to go, as we have a long day tomorrow!

After all these days spent in theme parks and close to huge skyscrapers I concluded to the following:

It’s amazing what man (and money) can do!

Disney's Epcot
It was a busy day today at Disney’s Epcot


It’s time to start the long journey back home! The path goes as follows: Orlando International Airport (MCO) to New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA). Then, a taxi takes us to New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). We wait for 5 hours at Terminal 7, which has almost nothing to do apart from a duty-free shop and a couple of cafes, before we get on our flight with a Boeing 747 to London Heathrow Airport (LHR) Terminal 5. After that, we take the train to go to Terminal 3 where we have an 8-hour layover. We wait at the arrival’s section for five hours before the drop-baggage desk of the airline we fly opens. Then, we get into the terminal, where there are so much more things to do compared to JFK Terminal 7. Half an hour later we enter the boarding area and we wait there until we get onto the plane, where we are told that there is going to be an hour-long delay. Great!


We arrive at Larnaca International Airpot (LCA) at 12:30 am, and a couple of hours later I’m in my bed in Nicosia sleeping!

It was a great, busy trip, full of activities and new experiences! My visa expires in 10 years, so I hope that I will be back soon!

All photos were taken using the camera Sony ILCE-5100 [AD] and the 16-50mm [AD] or 55-210mm [AD] lense unless otherwise specified.

P.S. This is just the beginning of a series of articles that I want to publish, including detailed itineraries (one for each city), hints and tips for preparing a trip to the USA, and theme park guides!

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Elina Michaelidou

Elina is a computer science graduate and a traveller enthusiastic. Read everything about her travel experiences here.

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