So we’re here to see off Voldemort, then for a beer at Moe’s. But first…
How do you explain to US customers why you need to take a brick through?
Just say that it’s because you’re rebuilding Diagon Alley brick by brick.
Our guide tells us that’s what a member of the Harry Potter film team did to ensure everything met with JK Rowling’s approval.
She’d visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in both Universal Orlando theme parks to make sure everything is as she wrote it.
We are standing outside the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley, near Gringotts Banks with its imposing fire-breathing dragon frontage.
Here for the butterbeer
I am in need of some butterbeer after escaping (just) in one piece.
From the clutches of the Dementors who have been besieging Hogwarts Castle, situated in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Wizards get taken to Diagon Alley by Ernie Prang and Dre Head, the dreadlocked skull drivers of the Knight Bus.
Ably conducted by assistant Sam Shunpike whole we meet; muggles though must use their feet.
These muggles though are allowed on the Hogwarts Express to Kings Cross Station.
Wave your wand
But watch out for Dementors silhouetted in the carriage window.
There are enemies everywhere but it helps when Harry and Ron are there to help.
On the Forbidden Journey they lead on their sticks as we skirted the cliffs of Hogwarts Castle on a dizzying 3D simulator ride which puts us right at the heart of the fight.
We were well prepared, we had already been to Ollivanders to decide who would be selected for a special wand.
Wands as every Potterhead knows picks you, not the other way around and Emma-Jane is the lucky recipient invested with hers by the sage Garrick Ollivander.
It was not dissimilar it must be said to Harry’s. His is 11ins long, made of holly with a phoenix feather core.
Bellatrix or treat
You can buy your own keepsake from the store here in Awelando for a competitive $36.95 (€33).
Empowered, Emma-Jane leads the way through Gringotts Bank on to our carriage for a duel with the Dark Lord.
Our animatronic and hirsutically challenged nemesis and his shaggy-haired accomplice Bellatrix are not so easily shared off.
And we must tangle with them again in the Gringotts vaults.
Gringotts, it’s said, is the safest place to be and the animatronic goblin clerks do leave you with a sense of comfort.
That they’d guard your worldly possessions with their life.
Lockers with thumbprint recognition will do the rest.
Saving wizards and half-bloods is thirsty work though and this muggle needs refilling.
Only one place for it. Moe’s Bar, Universal Orlando, is all about family fun and The Simpsons, as we all know, are the family who put the fun into dysfunctional.
On the way to a thirst-quenching beer in Moe’s you can get a meet, greet and snap with Homer and Bart.
And pass the Krustyland stalls, Lard Lad Donuts and Duff Gardens.
The lure of a Krusty Burger takes precedence over the Simpsons Ride, Krusty’s piece de resistance which comes under threat from Sideshow Bob.
In a seat-of-the-pants six-minute ride.
Moe, Moe, I love you so
My pants though were firmly wedged into a seat in Moe’s, and my lips wedged into his signature burger.
With cheddar, cheese sauce, a giant tomato slice, iceberg lettuce, served on a speciality bun, but with an extra special sauce and a special ingredient.
That it’s served in Moe’s
Well worth ten bucks.
If you’re felling adventurous you can try the chicken waffle sandwich (so wrong, it’s right).
If you feel as lazy as Homer, and you’ve every right to be as you are on holiday then while away the afternoon at Moe’s.
Islands in the dream
But if you’ve got kids tugging at you to hit the rides – or in Natalie and Fiona’s case, big kids – then you better sup up and get back over to the Islands of Adventures.
There are seven themed islands:
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (a magical escape).
Marvel Super HeroIsland (pumped-up action).
Toon Lagoon (a water ride extravaganza).
Jurassic Park (prehistoric mayhem).
The Lost Continent (myths and legends).
Seuss Landing (childhood wonders).
And Port of Entry (the shop-centred entrance).
Spider-Man proved a particular favourite of the group, a 400ft freewill, emulating the webbed one’s descent.
Your correspondent meanwhile was taking a breather after unleashing his inner Hulk.
The Hulk is a vengeful superhero (so they all are… yes) but he takes out his anger in a particularly brutal manner.
Launching you 150ft in the air, with an acceleration of zero to 40mph in two seconds flat, it reaches speeds of 87mph.
The Hulk has seven inversions and turns you upside down in a weightless zero gravity roll before sending you crashing back to earth.
If lots of inversions send you loop-the-loop it may be best staying off this one.
And it wasn’t just the Hulk who was green about the gills after this one.
Shrek if you wanna go faster
A friendlier green monster is Shrek and there is no better way to sign off your trip to Universal Orlando than to sit back and join everyone’s favourite ogre.
Shrek, and his sidekick Donkey as they battle the til Lord Farquaad.
A 4D cinematic experience you’ll go on a thundering gallop through a haunted forest.
Ride on a fire-breathing dragon and plunder over a waterfall.
All in the quest of Princess Fiona.
You’ll have spiders fly out at you and be sprayed in the face and tilted forward and back.
It’s kick-ass entertainment and few do it better than Shrek and the magical cast of Universal.
So a big recommendation then and it’s one way to see off Voldemort, then for a beer at Moe’s.
Is that a fact?
TRAVEL FACTS: The Orlando Flex Ticket Plus includes 14 days’ unlimited access to Universal Studios, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Aquatica, SeaWorld Orlando. Wet’n’Wild Ireland and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
The ticket is available through Tickets Direct priced at €325 per adult and €309 per child. To book, call free on 1800 927 467 or visit http://www.attractiontickets.com.
It also includes FREE coach transportation to Busch Gardens on the Busch Gardens Shuttle Express with the Orlando FlexTicket Plus. Only pay for parking once if you visit more than one park on the same day. You’ll also get complimentary entrance got Universal CityWalk.
The Behind the Scenes tour at SeaWorld is in addition to the park entry tickets. Purchase via http://www.seaworldparks.ie/book-tickets.
They start from €27 per adult and €9 per child in low season and include meeting a penguin, touching a small shark and learning about the animal rescue and rehab work in the park. Visit http://www.seaworldcares.com
The Discovery Cover Ultimate Package includes one-day reservation at Discovery Cove – with a 30-minute dolphin swim experience, meals, snacks and drinks – plus 14-day unlimited entry to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica. Prices from €215pp.
How to get there: Aer Lingus http://www.aerlingus.com fly from Dublin to Orlando four times weekly: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Fares start from €259 each way including taxes. Aer Lingus custom ers can pre-clear US customs at Dublin Airport.
Where to stay: Stay on-site at Universal Orlando at the 5* Loews Portofino Bay Hotel with American Holidays from €1109pp. The price includes return direct flight with Aer Lingus to Orlando, Florida. And seven nights accommodation at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. Selected dates September & October 2015.