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Old 11-27-2012, 07:45 PM   #16
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We were a Disney only family until recently. Now that my kids are a little older, they prefer Universal. We stayed onsite for the first time this summer and fell in love. The express pass, being close to the parks and City Walk, and the pool hopping is wonderful. And you can get a great rate at the hotels with an Annual Pass. Only one person needs the AP to get the discount. Just go to Universal's website and click on hotels. When you put in your travel information, put APH in the group code(i think this is the box). If the AP rates are out, it will show up. If not, you can book and then have them change the rate when it comes out. I think you should definitely give Universal a try. It is different than Disney but still as enjoyable.
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Old 11-27-2012, 07:52 PM   #17
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I was also always about Disney until DS finally talked me into going to Universal. I didn't really know what to expect but I literally had my Disney blinders ripped off my face and now there's no looking back. I absolutely adore Universal and have been twice this year. I wish that I could go right now.

Your experience might be completely different. You might not care much about Universal or you might recognize it as a different but also amazing experience. You'll never know unless you try though.

I do agree and can't stress enough - do NOT go looking for Disney!!! It's not there but Universal is.
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Old 11-27-2012, 08:52 PM   #18
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Universal Orlando Resort is amazing. The two parks (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure) are world class, especially Islands of Adventure where the theming and rides in the park will literally blow you away. The parks have something for everyone. If you want to check out a ride at Universal Studios, but you're currently at Islands of Adventure, all you have to do is take a quick walk!

The hotels are amazing, and once again, are all walking distance from each other, CityWalk, and the two parks. It's just amazing! I definitely recommend staying onsite, as your room key doubles as an Express Pass.

I think you'll have a great time. Disney is more about magic and Universal is more about adventure and riding the movies. I definitely prefer the latter.
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Old 11-28-2012, 01:32 AM   #19
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We made our first visit to UO on our last trip to Orlando a couple weeks ago.

I went into kinda "Meh".....the son wanted to see to Harry Potter, so we stayed at Hard Rock for a night (I was less than excited about it....UO was a speedbump for the first day/night on my way to WDW the next evening). And then went to IOA the following day, using the early entry and express passes for the rides.

And we had a had a BLAST!

The Hard Rock hotel blew away our POR stay the rest of the week. The Kitchen at the Hard Rock was our best meal of the trip.

Hands down, the customer service....for us.....was better at UO than at WDW.

We plan on making a shortened trip to UO only next time.....maybe a long weekend, 3 days and 4 nights or so. And avoid WDW entirely.

It was THAT pleasant a change for us.
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Old 11-28-2012, 01:57 AM   #20
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We have always enjoyed doing both. To be honest, we really don't care for US but adore IOA. We have been several times, and always look forward to returning. Our last trip was with DD who was 19 months at the time, and we spent half the day in Seuss Landing. The photo opportunities alone were worth it alone. I agree, don't expect Disney because Universal has a different energy, but it is a nice change of pace. We will always be a Disney family, but will always enjoy a couple days at Universal.
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Old 11-28-2012, 06:42 AM   #21
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But that isn't to say its not helpful in a slow period. Even if it saves you mere minutes per ride, by the end of the day it adds up. Add to that the fabulousness of the onsite resorts and you've got a proper vacation.
True but if someone is torn between spending the money for onsite as opposed to offsite, it really depends on when you're going. If the parks are really slow, it doesn't make sense to me to spend the money and stay onsite as you wouldn't need unlimited Express. We all know what the parks are like during heavy travel periods so staying onsite is definitely worth the money then.
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Old 11-28-2012, 09:02 AM   #22
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Staying onsite adds much more than just express passes, IMHO. Being able to just walk everywhere is what makes the visit a vacation. Being able to do a little bit of this and then a little bit of that is really relaxing. That is the major difference, to me, from Disney. As Disney, you rarely plan on doing just one ride at a park because of the hassle it is to get there in the first place. At Universal, we often would just pop over to USF to do Men In Black several times. It is a very self driven vacation as opposed to the crowd driven visit to WDW.
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Old 11-28-2012, 12:02 PM   #23
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I am finally starting to do my research and look into Universal and think I would stay onsite. Am I right in thinking that the only hotel of the 3 to have balconies or patios is Portofino?
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Old 11-28-2012, 12:13 PM   #24
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Old 11-28-2012, 12:35 PM   #25
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I am finally starting to do my research and look into Universal and think I would stay onsite. Am I right in thinking that the only hotel of the 3 to have balconies or patios is Portofino?
Correct and even at Portofino, its not easy to get one.There aren't that many..I thought it would be a deal breaker for us, but we never missed it at all
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Old 11-28-2012, 02:07 PM   #26
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Correct and even at Portofino, its not easy to get one.There aren't that many..I thought it would be a deal breaker for us, but we never missed it at all
We spend very little time in the room except to sleep. Since you can simply walk everywhere, you tend to be out of the room more.
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Old 11-28-2012, 02:16 PM   #27
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I rarely venture out onto any hotel balcony in FLA other than to drink morning coffee or catch fireworks if we happen to luck into that view. After a few minutes the bugs come to visit and it's oh-so humid (if not just plain so darn hot) i tend to just soak up the ice cold AC when in our room.

We only stayed offsite once and certainly prefer being onsite...if only for a few days as part of a split trip. IMO the walk from the parking garage burns a lot of time. We always move our rental car over the last day. In retrospect the timeframe is comparable to just missing a boat to MK from the parking lot but I find that walk back very tiring at the end of the day.
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Old 11-29-2012, 07:34 AM   #28
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We just got back last week from a 2 night trip to US/IOA. This was our third trip this year. We used to be a Disney only family, and I know we will go back again someday. My kiddos are 11, 10 and 8, and as a family we have found that Universal and SeaWorld allows us to come together and enjoy each other as a family in a way that Disney did not. At Disney, I was always playing tour guide, juggling fast passes, trying to find the right busses, hurrying everyone to dining experiences. Universal is so much more laid back. If the kids want to ride something right then, well we do that. If they want to go back to swim, well we do that. If we want to go eat over at CityWalk, we do that. We love, love, love Universal. We have stayed in all three hotels, and they are all wonderful and unique. (I'd be happy to try to answer questions about them.) We love the Express Pass. Being able to bypass long lines is amazing. The Annual Pass has great perks, the best being the discount on the rooms. Yep, we love our Disney, but Universal is the place for us.
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Old 11-29-2012, 01:18 PM   #29
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You've gotten some great responses so far and I'm a fan of both Disney and Universal. I try to go to both when I'm down. I'm going down from December 10-17 and plan on doing two days at Universal and five at the Disney parks. I have Universal down to where I can do everything I like in both parks in one day. I agree with the point of Universal being more ride oriented and Disney more theme and scenery oriented.
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Old 11-30-2012, 07:38 PM   #30
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Hi, Can anyone summarize what we might like/not like about going to Universal instead of a trip to the Disney Parks. Our daughters are 8 and 11 and we have always loved Disney yet I am looking to try something different and know NOTHING about Universal to get me excited about going somewhere else. Any info people feel like sharing would be appreciated!
I got back home from my trip today. We did 4 days at dizney and 1 at IOA. We stayed on site to get into Harry Potter world early and to skip the lines.

1. Do you like reliable crowd calendars? The only one I am aware of is undercover tourist. Yesterday (Thursday 11/29) was a yellow, use caution kind of day. Apparently that means no lines anywhere in the park over 10 min. Empty seats on the dragon racers. So yeah, the crowd calendar isn't so good. Obviously not Universals problem, but the reliable outside research just isn't there. (Anyone else want to pitch in here?)

2. The big fancy harry potter ride is awesome. BUT it's an awesome motion simulator. Those type of rides wreck me. If you have similar concerns consider: one of the super headliners is out of bounds and one of the major reasons to stay on site (getting onto that ride before the crowd) is a moot point.

3. The Marvel characters are not as well costumed or as good as match to the template as WDW. At both parks there are iconic characters (Mickey and Spiderman) and less iconic the (kid from up and Woody Woodpecker). [Find me 50 kids under 14 familiar with woody woodpecker and I will change this line]

4. The roller coasters are awesome. If your party is tall enough it's a good time. (not as good as Cedar Point, but better than most of WDW)

5. Butterbeer is Yummy. Pumpkin Juice is not.

6. If you want to have a youngin do the wand thing Olavanders is awesome!! We stayed on site, immediately got into line for Olavanders, my kid was first in the shop for the day and was duly chosen. He has read the books and was psyched. If you do not intend to buy a wand or are a muggle skip Olavanders.

7. If you have food allergies U.S. isn't even in the same ballpark as WDW. I mean not even close. NOPE NOPE NOPE. The head cook at one place came out to talk to my wife about her gluten allergy. That's good right? He recommended the normal Spaghetti. Epic Fail. There are three safe places to eat at IOA. Two sit down and a counter service kind of place (so I'm told, we didn't go to them). It's a small park so maybe not a huge inconvenience, but not nearly as good as WDW.

8. As someone else mentioned Theme. The staff in Harry potter world didn't really carry through on the theme. The details of the buildings are cool. The pre ride area for the ultimate harry potter ride is worth getting in line for, but then the staff just doesn't carry through. I noticed and it did detract from the experience.

9. On the other threads you will hear folks who drink too much Disney kool-aid talk about Magic. Magic is just a well executed customer service strategy; however, they execute that strategy really well. In my - limited - experience the difference is noticeable.

With all that said, wait for the 8yr old to grow a bit taller then go. The best part of the park (again note I only went to Island of Adventure) is the thrill rides. Your girl is too short for the best part.
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