‘Live’ trip report 10/13-10/16

cschaaf

DIS Veteran
Joined
Oct 19, 2013
Attempting a live trip report. I’m not big on taking pictures in the park, but hopefully my words help someone.

We drove down on Tuesday night and got to Endless Summer around 9:15. Checkin was slow. There was only one agent at the desk and 4 people in front of me (plus one checking in). After 6 more people got behind me, they opened a second desk which helped a lot.

The room was fine. Small. Towels are rough. Beds are just okay. The pillows are lumpy and thick; there was no squishing them down. For the price, it was fine.

This morning (Wednesday) we checked out and went to our hotel for the rest of the stay, HRR. We got to the lobby around 7:20am. The rewards check in wasn’t open, but they had 2 agents and the line went relatively quickly. It takes a while to check in each group - longer than you think it should be, but they do throw a lot of information at you. It’s a lot for someone who has done research before going, I can’t imagine how much it is for those that show up without a clue.

In a first for us at Universal, the room was ready so we took our bags and parked the car. We headed down to the water taxi and waited about 10 min and were in the entry line at IOA at 8:20. By 8:30, the entry queues were back across the bridge.

Gate opened at 8:45.

While walking the queue, we saw a line way over on the left that goes in through the exit. Looked faster. Might try that next tomorrow. It looked like it opened a bit after the main gate lines, but only by a minute or so. Even the shortest line could end up taking longer depending on the folks in front of you and their luck in scanning tickets and fingerprints.

Scanned in at 8:50

Headed to Hagrid's. We walk slow. Queue goes around the fountain and back into the old stunt show theater. It was a pretty steady walk through the queue. We were off the ride at 9:30

Took the train over then on Gringotts. EP line ducks off the the right before the bank lobby. Very short wait. We stopped about 8 steps from the top. Standby was posted as 100 minutes. There’s no way it was that long.

Locker areas, so far, are much better than they usually are. We found this to be true all day. Some of the locker areas are a bit more confusing than normal - there are often 2 lines: one for getting a locker and one for retrieval.

We road MIB and it was pretty much a walk-on, too.

We have the Horror Night Freestyle cups from a few years ago. We tried getting those reactivated and had varying degrees of success. My wife’s worked right away, mine gave the ‘no remaining refills’ error. Went to a different kiosk and they tried to fix mine - still didn’t work. Went back and the TM said these cups were always a pain. She managed to get me up and running.

A few hours later, we tried to fill again and mine worked and my wife’s didn’t. Another stop at a kiosk to get hers working. The TM called over what may have been a manager, so hopefully we’re all set for tomorrow.

The line for Fast Food Boulevard was long so we decided to try Bumblebee Man tacos for the first time. They were really good. That line was long and moved slowly, but that’s on us for trying to eat at exactly noon. There was only one TM working in there.

We went to see Bourne for the first time. We got there about 20 min before a show and stood in the pre-show building for a long time. Most everyone sat on the floor. An older gentlemen complained to a TM that they needed chairs in there. I think having some kind of countdown would go a long way towards helping in that room. At least watching the clock tick would be something so and you’d know something was happening.

The show is really good! We really enjoyed it and I see it as something we’ll do every trip.

As we exited, a Makeup show was about to start, so we did that. Also a fun show that we do pretty much every time. It’s a hidden gem, I think. Even more hidden now that you enter through the exit.

At Mummy, it showed a 70 minute wait and the standby line was out the door - I still don't think it would be 70 minutes. The locker area only had about 4 people when I dropped off my bag. We were through pretty fast in the EP line. When I returned to get my bag, the locker room was empty. It was me and two TMs.

We walked through the Bride of Frankenstein house. I went in front and got lost about 3 times. It’s so hard to see where to go. TMs would eventually jump out and waive us in the right direction. We didn’t seem to hit a lot of the scares, or at least they didn’t get me. One got my wife.

Hit a few more things then headed back to the hotel for a quick rest before dinner.

NBC Grill quoted a 50 minute wait so we walked over to Red Oven. At least 1/3 of the tables were empty but they still said it would be 40 minutes. We decided that was fine and waited. Service was slow - they must have been operating with a smaller crew. Pizza was still good - one of our favorite places to eat.

We wanted to grab some Voodoo donuts for breakfast for the next three days. I asked for the UOAP donut and the TM said they were out of all of the seasonal donuts (AP, pumpkin, and Jack (which would have been my next choice). So I asked for the Universal Orange Creme and they were out of that. So I said the Mango Tango and 2 others.

As they were filling the order, a TM called me over and said they were out of the mango and to choose another. I chose the raspberry filled and she grabbed two of those and threw them in the box - so an extra one for the inconvenience. Once again, our fault for tying to get donuts at 8:45

Tomorrow’s plan is to do EPA again and hit Hagrid’s. We’ll play it by ear after that.
 
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cschaaf

DIS Veteran
Joined
Oct 19, 2013
A later start this morning as the water taxi was late. We got to the dock around 7:55. Security said the first taxi typically gets there around 5 - 7 min after 8.

It didn’t show up until 8:15. That delay was enough that we got in line to enter IOA on the bridge right by the Buffet plane. 8:30 now, we’ll see how long it takes us to finish Hagrids this morning.....

ETA - 8:36 and the lines to get in are back past Big Fire. Can’t see the end of it from the bridge.
 
  • cschaaf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 19, 2013
    Hope your wait is short

    I always walk to the park if boats are late
    I would be too excited to wait 20 minutes for a boat.

    Have a great park day!!
    We just hate walking more than we need to. Bad feet, bad knees, bad hips. We watched a family that started walking about 3 minutes before the taxi came. When the taxi passed them, they weren’t quite to the security check right before USO park.

    the other downside, at least this morning, was, if they were going to IOA, those folks had to walk in front of the Hard Rock restaurant then double back across the IOA bridge back into City Walk. That put them at a big disadvantage. Both in time and the number of steps for the day.

    Gates opened at 8:45. Making our way to the turnstiles. Looks like we’ll make it in by 8:56 or so
     

    cschaaf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 19, 2013
    Off Hagrids at 9:46 so about 50 minutes from turnstile to off the ride.

    Hogsmeade is significantly more crowded today that it was yesterday around this same time. There are 12 families in line for the butterbeer cart right now.
     

    macraven

    Proud Redhead
    Moderator
    Joined
    Apr 21, 2003
    I noticed two of the Friday’s I was at UO had crowds start around 10
    But Friday’s were much better that being in the park on Saturday.

    I keep enjoying your trip reporting!
     
  • cschaaf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 19, 2013
    Some wait time notes

    JP should 20 minute standby. EP waited for one boat. Kong showed 40, EP waited about 8. Long didn’t do the outside loop and that wasn’t due to weather. I wonder if the allows them to cycle faster.

    Spider-Man showed 60, EP waited 8. Some of the effects were off, but still fun.

    Oh, and we did see the Spider-Man vehicles being sprayed down after disembarking.
     
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    cschaaf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 19, 2013
    Hulk showed 65, EP was about 5 minutes. Waited for two trains.

    Again, bad timing on lunch. We have a 30 minute wait for Confisco. This will be our first time there.

    Waiting it out In the U Rest by the lagoon. Here is a shot across at the Velocicoaster
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    cschaaf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 19, 2013
    Confisco was good. We got the hummus appetizer, I got the chilled tuna noodle bowl, and my wife og the pad thai. All were very good. The pad thai could have easily served us both.

    For dinner, we tried NBC Grill. Wife got the wedge salad and enjoyed it. I got the grouper sandwich which was also good.

    Headed back to the hotel for the night. And it’s a beautiful night.
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  • cschaaf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 19, 2013
    Last day, new tactic - we walked from HR to IOA. Took the shortcut through the butterfly garden. It took us 10-11 minutes at our slow pace.

    At the gates at 7:52 and moved to the far left. Only 8 people in front of us. Now we stand and wait ;)
     

    cschaaf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 19, 2013
    Much less crowded this morning than yesterday. Yesterday, by this time, there were two lines stretching back across the bride and past Big Fire. Today there is only 1 line on the bridge and it looks like it isn’t the whole way across.

    8:45 - turnstiles opened. The runners are out today. We didn’t see any running the last two days. There’s been at least 20 groups running this morning - including three with elderly folks. Lol
     
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    cschaaf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 19, 2013
    Dropped off our bags at 8:58 and were off the ride by 9:23. We only stopped a few times in the queue And not for long each time. There was about a 2 min delay in the load station after we had gotten on.

    Hogsmeade is a lot less crowded than yesterday, but there are still 10 families in line for the butterbeer cart.
     

    cschaaf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 19, 2013
    Today is wicked hot.

    Had the worst locker experience of the trip sofar at Gringotts. For those that haven’t seen it, some of the busier locker areas have 2 lines now. One to stow a bag, one to pick up. It’s a bit confusing at some of them.

    At Gringotts, there no real ‘queue’, so people kind of form their own lines in whatever direction benefits them. Still, everyone seemed to take turns well.

    The TMs pulse you in and make sure only 1 person per party goes in. That’s where issues happen. The family in the front of the line did a bunch of shuffling of bags and blocked the entrance. The TM should have asked them to move to the side and let other through. Even with that, it was only 20 seconds or so.

    a few pictures

    Don’t see this every day. A dump truck going through the Lost Continent

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    You can kind of see them loading in trees here we sat there about 20 minutes and saw 4 trees come in 532682

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    cschaaf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 19, 2013
    Grabbed lunch at the Today Cafe. Pretty good. My wife had the caprese sandwich and liked it. I had the Italian sandwich and it was okay. The bread is really hard to bit through. My jaw was tired of chewing by the end.

    We both got potato salad. My wife said, “I’ve never seen fingerling potatoes used in potato salad” after one bite, we both knew why. They are too want to be eaten like that, IMO.

    We walked over to Bourne about 10 minutes before a show. The line was back to the exit for Horror Makeup. I asked a TM if he thought we would get in that show. He said it was impossible to tell because it all depends on group size.

    Thinking about it, with the extra spacing, every group takes up 3 more seats than people.

    They opened and we were 3 groups away when the filled up. So we went to ride ET.

    After ET, we tried again for Bourne about 15 minutes before a show. No dice, they had already loaded in and were full.

    The TM said to be there at least 20 min early. We’ll probably go do something then make our way back to try again.
     

    cschaaf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 19, 2013
    Eventually, we made it back to Bourne and ended up in row 3. The first show we saw, we were way in the back. The show is great either way, but I think farther back was better.

    If you arrive 20 minutes early, it takes around 50 minutes for the full experience. It’s going to be a great people eater when they can fill all the seats.

    Rode Mummy again. 45 minute posted wait and the EP line was out the door by about 8-10 families. It was slow to the EP scanner, then we walked the queue to half way up the steps without stopping. Our total time from bag drop to pickup was 20 minutes.

    First time we ran into someone unmasked and completely ignoring the distancing markers was the Mummy ride. The guy took off his mask as soon as we got in the building and only put it up when a TM was in sight. They also walked right up on us every time we stopped. Fortunately, that was only a few times.

    Otherwise, you’ll see noses from time to time and TMs tapping their noses to indicate that someone needs to pull up their mask.

    Walked through the Tooth fairy house. It’s not nearly as dark as the Bride house. It was basically a walk on. I think we got there right at a cast change because we got held up for about 5 minutes when we were about 3 families from the door.

    That pretty much closed down the park. We’re back in front of Menchies in our newly found shade spot. It also forms a little wind tunnel, so there is a nice breeze.

    We’ll sit here for a while than probably go to Hot Dog HOF for dinner as neither one of us is very hungry.
     

    cschaaf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 19, 2013
    Here's a tip - before you decide on a place to eat, forsaking reservations at any other restaurant, make sure the restaurant you chose is actually open. HD HoF isn't open on Fridays.

    We ended up back at Red Oven, which is a win anyway. We love that place and, for us, there is no better value on property. ~$15 for a pizza that feeds two.

    When we went there Wednesday night, about 1/3 of the tables were open and we were told it was a 40 minute wait. Tonight, all but 2 or 3 tables were full. When I walked up and said 2, the hostess said, "Right this way." They must have been short staffed on Wednesday. Our pizza wasn't hot that night, either. So it seemed like the kitchen was fine, but servers were out.

    Tonight, when they sat us, the hostess said that they were ONLY accepting mobile orders tonight. That was the first time we had to mobile order. While we were eating, a couple sat near us and the waitress took their order - so who knows.

    The one thing I didn't like about the mobile ordering is that there wasn't an way to leave a tip. These folks are working hard, under stressful conditions to give me the opportunity to de-stress a bit. I would have liked to add a tip in the mobile order.

    Another beautiful night
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    Back at the hotel, we decided to go to the pool. We very rarely use a hotel pool and never have at all of our Universal stays. We got to the pool and were setting up our chairs when applause erupted. We looked to see what happened and there was a lifeguard in the center of the pool. She was holding a shovel-like tool and was wading to the side by the lifeguard stand - where another lifeguard was waiting with a red bag.

    Then you notice that NO ONE else is in the pool. Didn't take long to understand was was going on here - someone brought their blast ended skroot to the pool.

    Shortly after a guy came out wearing hip waders and carrying a 5 gallon bucket of a yellowish liquid. He waded to the middle of the pool and poured it all in. Then did his best Hulk Hogan impersonation and looked at one side of the pool, waived his hand around, then cupped his hand to his ear. Then turned to the other side and did the same.

    So the one time we decide to go to the pool and it ends up like most of the rides at the parks - everything is going well, then SOMETHING GOES WRONG! ;)
     

    cschaaf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 19, 2013
    Some final thoughts:
    • Universal is doing a great job with safety protocols. Nothing is perfect, but they are doing what they can.
    • Endless Summer was nice. For the price, it's a really good deal. The towels are the biggest negative.
    • Hard Rock is also nice, but it's our third favorite of the 3 Premium hotels (we'd put RPR at the top)
    • We had great luck at the locker areas. Ran into fewer headaches than a normal trip
    • We had issues every day with the refillable mugs - they were still worth it
    • We see a lot of questions about if EP is 'worth it'. It's impossible to answer. I didn't keep track of every ride we road, but I remembered to jot down 10 times we rode. For those 10 times:
      • Standby time added up to 480 minutes
      • In the EP line, we waited 69 minutes for those rides.
    To be fair, I think those Standby times were really inflated. But even if you say they were 50% over, that still 4 hours as opposed to the 1 that we waited.

    Obviously this data is only accurate for the exact days and exact times we were there and things will vary wildly, so don't take my experience as 'normal'.

    I'll probably have some additional thoughts later....
     

    cschaaf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 19, 2013
    Day after thoughts:
    • The food lines were all long
      • Make reservations (something I never thought I'd say for Universal)
      • Don't wait until you are hungry to start planning a meal
      • Try to go at 'off' times - that said, the lines always looked long
      • Maybe pack some snacks in case you get hungry and can't find someplace to go right away
    • There was a big sign at the hotel pool saying that swim diapers were free - if you are a parent with a kid in that age range, please take advantage. It'll save you a lot of embarrassment and others a lot of disappointment. It will also save the poor lifeguards that have to go in the pool to remove the issue.
    • HRH - Water taxi vs walking. Not an easy decision, I don't think.
      • If UO has EPA, walking is going to be faster in almost every case
      • If IOA has EPA, things get more complicated. When the lines at the IOA gate got long, the walkers had walked from HRH, in front of Hard Rock Resturant, then had to walk back across the bridge to find the back of the line. That's a lot of walking only to end up behind some folks that took the taxi.
    • Safety compliance, for the most part, was pretty good.
      • Mask usage was very, very high. You'd see noses and some that thought they outsmarted the system by 'drinking' or 'eating' so they could take off their mask, but overall, people behaved well.
      • Social distancing was less common.
        • The EPA line had very little distancing - slightly more than you used to get but nowhere near 6'.
        • Where there were markings, people did better then where there weren't.
        • Some queues made distancing difficult. Not quite sure how to explain this, but in places, there are 3 rows of queue right next to each other - the two on the outside go in the same direction with the one in the middle being the 'return'. In some lines, the 'return' line had no markers. We assumed that meant you stopped right before making that turn until the group in front of you made it the whole way through the return. In other lines, there were markers in that return that staggered from the inside and outside lanes. Not everyone made the same assumptions as us.
        • Interestingly, we felt distancing improved as the day went on.
    • I think I said it up thread, but I think the best bet for riding Hagrid's is to use EPA and get there early.
     

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