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Cruising From Florida This Summer?
Consider Pre- Or Post-Cruise Stay In Orlando


by Georgina Cruz

Families considering a summer cruise out of Florida this summer may wish to consider a pre- or post-cruise stay in Orlando. Ours did and we found that the city knows a trick or two when it comes to new
attractions: it keeps revealing them, one after another, like the bunnies that come out of a magician’s top hat. Here are some new attractions our family enjoyed this summer:

In the heart of the city’s tourism corridor, on International
Drive, I-Drive 360 is a recently opened retail, dining and entertainment complex with a trio of new attractions from Merlin Entertainments. Highlights are The Orlando Eye, a 400-foot-tall observation wheel providing views of Central Florida in all directions within enclosed, air-conditioned glass capsules; Madame Tussauds, the celebrity wax attraction, that offers visitors the ultimate fame experience with its “red carpet treatment”; and SEA LIFE Orlando with displays of colorful fish, sharks, jellyfish, sea horses and more. The Yardhouse, Tin Roof and more retail, restaurants and entertainment add to the experience.

At Walt Disney World new attractions have arrived from a galaxy, far, far away to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. These include Star Wars Launch Bay, a central locale for fans to celebrate the popular series, new scenes from the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the park’s Star Tours – The Adventures Continue ride, a re-imagined Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple, where youngsters can “train” with lightsabers and “fight” Darth Vader and Seventh Sister Inquisitor from the Disney XD series Star Wars Rebels. Also new at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a nighttime fireworks show featuring lasers, special effects and video projection themed to the entire Star Wars saga. The First Order seizes the park with its show of force in a procession of Stormtroopers led by Captain Phasma and guests can also encounter Kylo Ren inside the Star Wars Launch Bay. Fans can also feel the full power of the force with the new live stage show, "Star Wars" A Galaxy Far, Far Away." This celebration of the iconic Star Wars moments features movie vignettes and popular characters such as Chewbacca, BB-8, R2-D2, C-3PO, Kylo Ren, Darth Vader and Darth Maul. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park new nightly entertainment began on Memorial Day Weekend including a new nighttime show projected onto the park's Tree of Life, featuring visual effects and sounds, along with a new limited-engagement show on the Discovery River based on Disney's new feature film, "The Jungle Book." Also at Animal Kingdom Park, The Kilimanjaro Safaris extends their tours into the night with enhanced sunset and moon glow lighting effects along the animal tour. The experience becomes new at night as the animals become nocturnal along with the additions of hyenas and African wild dogs to the collection.

In Epcot, the Norway Pavilion becomes the new home for Queen Elsa and Princess Anna of the animated movie “Frozen.” Guests are transported into the kingdom of Arendelle and visit Elsa's ice palace in a new boat ride attraction and then meet the royal sisters in a new Royal Sommerhus, modeled after a traditional Norwegian cabin. Also, in Epcot, beginning on June 17, guests can take "flight" on a new Soarin' Around the World experience at The Land Pavilion. A third theater has also been added to the attraction taking even more guests on an aerial ride above many of the world's wonders.

Walt Disney World Resort has transformed Downtown Disney into Disney Springs doubling the number of shops, restaurants and other venues. The new area started opening last year and novelties include, Morimoto Asia, a one-of-a-kind dining experience created by Chef Masaharu Morimoto, of Iron Chef America fame. For the master chef's first pan-Asian dining experience, Morimoto Asia's 36-foot tall, two-story layout includes a vast range of areas including open terraces, a grand hall, private rooms, long bar, cocktail lounge, waterside seating and more. The BOATHOUSE is another new upscale, restaurant at Disney Springs that immerses guests with experiences beyond the cuisine (their seafood, by the way, is delectable). Guests can listen to live music or take a Captain's guided tour aboard The Venezia, a 40-foot wooden Italian Water Taxi featuring champagne toasts and chocolate-covered strawberries. The BOATHOUSE has three bars, one built over the water. Guests can enjoy a gourmet menu served daily until 2 a.m. and featuring steaks, chops, the aforementioned fresh seafood and a raw bar.

At Universal Orlando Resort, the Harry Potter attraction has been expanded and now encompasses the Hogwarts castle and Hogsmeade village at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and next door in Universal Studios Florida theme park visitors can enter Diagon Alley, to go on a multi-dimensional thrill ride and other experiences. Also Universal Orlando Resort has announced a new groundbreaking attraction opening this summer at Universal's Islands of Adventure. “Skull Island: Reign of Kong” honors one of the most monumental figures in movie history, King Kong. Guests will board large vehicles and explore ancient temple structures while encountering “hostile natives” and fending off “unspeakable terrors.”

At SeaWorld Orlando, Mako, a brand new 200-foot-tall coaster opened on June 10. Named for one of the ocean's fastest known sharks, it is billed as Orlando's tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster, reaching speeds of 73 mph as it races along 4,760 feet of steel track. It will be the centerpiece of the newly themed two-acre plaza. The surrounding realm will be shark themed, providing guests with the opportunity to learn about the impact humans have on sharks and why these animals are critical to the environment.

IF YOU GO –

Lodging: We stayed at the Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive, a comfortable within walking distance of the Orlando Eye and other area attractions including Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando (free shuttles are available to Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando). Amenities include multiple pools, gardens, fitness center, and on-site restaurants. Family suites with bunk beds and play areas are available. Visit wyndhamorlandoresort.com.

Orlando information: For details on Orlando, log on to VisitOrlando.com.

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