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superwy 11-10-2012 10:18 AM

Our Week without the Mouse
We just spent a week at Universal, Discovery Cove and Sea World. This board was valuable in our planning, so I thought I'd provide some information on our trip.

We left on November 2, taking a 6:00 am flight out of Boston. It put us in early, but we were tired. Tony, our driver, picked us up and took us to the Portofino. I had gotten a great deal on the stay through an email promo code, so we enjoyed this lovely spot for $187 a night, on average. Our room was not ready, but we got some breakfast downstairs at the buffet, which was quite good, then headed to the pool for a bit.

The pool is a beautiful spot at this hotel. We loved the beach and my son enjoyed the slide. My husband and I would have happily spent the day there but the kids could not wait to get to the parks. So, we dropped the rest of our things at the Bell Stand and took off on the boat for Universal.

First stop was the minion ride. Let me say that the Express Passes are just amazing. Having spent years at Disney running for Fast Passes, this system is the best. It was a slow time of year anyway, but we never waited for a single ride (except Rip Ride Rocket and Forbidden Journey, but both were less than 30 minutes). We spent a great day at Universal, doing rides, shows and Fivel's Playground. When we got the text that our room was ready around 3:30 pm, we headed back to the hotel. My kids, 9 and 7, had done great considering we woke up at 3:30 am. When we were leaving for dinner at Mama Della's, my son started to have stomach pains. He hadn't eaten much and was just exhausted, so after being seated I had to take him back to the room. Oatmeal did the trick, and he was asleep in minutes, while my husband and daughter had a date. They did not enjoy Mama Della's that much, saying it was okay.

The next morning we got to sleep an extra hour with daylight savings, so we made it to the park early for Harry Potter. We missed the boat so we took the Rickshaw, which was a lot of fun. At Islands, I just love the Harry Potter section of the park and Forbidden Journey is amazing. My son was trying to get up the courage to ride the big coasters this time, but wasn't there yet. We spent a nice day exploring Islands of Adventure, having lunch at Mythos (which again, was okay), and ending up with the boys soaking wet in Toon Town. Back to the hotel for some pool time and cocktails, then off to Hard Rock Cafe in Citywalk for dinner. While we were waiting, my son saw Rip Ride Rocket and was determined to ride it at night. My husband and I are not huge ride fans, but I agreed to go later in the week. I hoped he would change his mind.

The next day was our day at Discovery Cove. We took a car from the hotel, which was $30, and arrive just before 9:00 am. Our swim was at 2:45. I have to say this was our favorite day of the whole week (at least for my husband and I). What an amazing place. Calm, serene, beautiful...just wonderful. We really liked the birds and snorkeling with the fish. The dolphin swim was great, but I would happily go back and just spend the day. I would recommend the wet suit to anyone swimming with the dolphins on a 70 degree day, as the water is chilly.

We were tired that night, so we ordered pizza from Sal's and brought it over to the Thirsty Fish where we had some drinks and ate outside. It was really a nice evening. I enjoyed the grounds at the Portofino a great deal.

The next day it was rainy, so the kids and I took off to the parks with our ponchos for a few hours while my husband stayed behind and worked out. It was a nice morning at Islands, mostly doing Spiderman and Suess. We had a bite at the bakery right by the entrance which was really quite good, then went to Universal to ride the Minions and Shrek, and we also got to see the parade with Gru, et al. Then it was back to the hotel for some pool time. Around 4:00 pm we went back to Universal as my son was ready to ride Rip Ride. We did Simpsons, MIB, Disaster, and he and my husband did the Mummy twice. By that time it was getting dark and he was ready. We got to the line and it was 30 minutes, but he didn't care. I spent most of it worrying about the ride. In the end, it was really great and I have a roller coaster junkie on my hands. In the remaining days of our vacation, he did Hulk, Dragons, then Kraken and Manta at Seaworld, all several times (and some alone).

We watched the night show at Universal which was pretty cool, then headed to Margaritaville for dinner. We were wiped so it was back to the room after that.

Wednesday was our last day at Universal and we spent it at Islands, doing a last ride on Forbidden journey and hitting all of the major rides. My husband did Hulk with my son and may still not have recovered. He really prefers the water rides. My daughter refused to do any water rides so I missed those this trip, but that was okay.

We checked out of Portofino Wednesday morning and had our bags held while we spent our last day in the park, then my father-in-law picked us up and brought us to our Seaworld hotel, the Springhill Suites. We spent the next two days at Seaworld, which I loved. The shows are great, we dined with Shamu, and it is a relaxing park. Lots of fun.

What I would have done differently:

1. Springhill Suites is a fine hotel...clean, spacious rooms, etc. However, it is an obvious letdown after the beauty of Portofino. I would have reversed the trip, staying here first. It is right next to a Walgreens and CVS, so I could have picked up all the toiletries I packed, gotten oatmeal, etc. and saved some space in luggage. Then, moving to the Portofino would have been fantastic.

2. I did an early morning flight on the way in and a late flight out (9:30 pm). I would do the late flight again, as it gave us a nice day, but the early flight was tough for our family. If was did it over I'd stay in a less expensive hotel the first night, like Springhill, and give us an extra night of good sleep.

What I loved/would do again:

1. Stay at the Portofino. It is beautiful. I loved the grounds, the room overlooking the pool, the service...a great hotel that I preferred to any Disney hotel I have stayed in.

2. Discovery Cove. Hands down my favorite day. We did the American Express deal so it was $149 a person, which can't be beat. We then got 14 free days at Seaworld and Aquatica.

3. Pool time. We need it. We are not a full-on park family. (Okay, my husband and I aren't!)

I know this is long, but I hope it helps some folks. Now I need to get to the grocery store and take a nap!

dreamscometrue47 11-14-2012 05:14 PM

Great report! Thanks! I agree about Discovery Cove. I would go back in a heartbeat, not do the dolphin swim, just because the place is so incredibly relaxing.

Metro West 11-15-2012 08:38 AM

Great report...thanks for sharing! :thumbsup2

schumigirl 11-17-2012 09:37 AM

Great report :thumbsup2

Glad you had such a good time at Universal and enjoyed the Portofino. Universal hotels are so lovely and I totally agree about the Express Pass being the best. We love it :wave2:

couturelover 11-18-2012 09:48 AM

Glad to read you had such a great time! :thumbsup2

CoachZ 11-18-2012 10:41 AM

Thanks for the trip report!!! :) The info on the Springhill is very helpful w/ planning our June 2013 trip. It's nice to know that Walgreens and CVS are close for shopping. Are there any restaurants including fast food within walking distance of Springhill?

superwy 11-18-2012 12:57 PM

There was a lot around the Springhill Suites. TGI Fridays was out front, and there were some fast-food places across the highway. Good luck!

BryceMc 11-18-2012 05:11 PM

Glad you had fun!

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