Girls Need Nice Things! - Universal Trip 8/15-8/19

crabbymom

Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess
Joined
Nov 28, 2012
Hello! Welcome to my first attempt at a trip report! I have gotten so much information from the reports here I wanted to throw my experience in the ring as well. I'll start with introductions:

Me (Rachel) - Single mom to two boys and a girl
Jarod - My oldest son (21)
Tyler - My younger son (16)
Katie - My daughter (7)
Michael - My brother
Peter - My Brother In Law

Jarod, Tyler and myself are Annual Pass holders. We fly down 4-6 times a year just for a few days whenever we can. Between Allegiant and Frontier Airlines I can usually find pretty cheap airfare just about all the time. We have stayed offsite on points, at Cabana Bay (twice this year) and Adventura (once). This time, with six of us going, we needed some more space. I snagged a pretty good passholder rate for a Kid Suite with a Connecting Queen at Sapphire Falls. That would essentially give us three bedrooms and two bathrooms...perfect. Plus, I had been dying to stay a SF for a while now (Thanks @schumigirl!). We always stop there for Strong Water Tavern and the water taxi, but now I actually wanted to stay there as well.

Michael and Peter had last been to Universal when Dueling Dragons was still there and Katie hadn't ever been that she remembered (she'd been, but she was a toddler.)

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This would also be the first time (that she remembers) that she would be flying on an Airplane...her last time was actually in First Class to Las Vegas, so probably best that she does not have that to compare to on our Allegiant flight! We flew down late on a Thursday night...8:30pm departure/10pm arrival at Sanford.
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I had booked a private van through Mears and he was waiting in baggage claim for us to arrive. We got to Sapphire Falls just after 11pm and everyone abandoned me to stand in line for check in while they went to Strong Water Tavern for beverages...to be fair, they brought me one in line!

The line to check in was surprisingly long for that late at night and it appeared that they only had two employees checking people in, however there were three...just one was being monopolized by a woman that was apparently not happy. The Universal employee handled the situation amazingly well and I was hoping he would check us in so I could be super nice to him to make up for her....anyone else do that? Well, it turned out that he was the one to check us in and he could not have been nicer or more accommodating. At nearly midnight with children in tow, we were all nearing our end, but he was so fun and funny and even the kids got into the spirit. Next it was time to drop the kids off in the room and head back for real drinks! I was really excited to see the Kid Suite with Connecting Queen...we were on level 4 which is the same level as the lobby and bar, building 2, rooms 83 & 85. Boy was that a long walk! But the Room!!!!

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For some reason, I don't have a picture of the King room that is connected to the kid suite...but it looks just like the Queen Suite just with one bed. Since it was so late, I did not have a good idea of what our view would be, except I knew it was a pool view. Then we were off to Strong Water! I knew just what to ask for! Fool's Gold!!

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Oh. My. Goodness!!! This drink can only be described as Divine!!! It will certainly be my go to drink from now on there. We ended up only staying for one drink since it was so late and we were planning on doing early entry the next morning so off to bed we went!
Stay Tuned!​
 

schumigirl

It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
Joined
May 15, 2007
Yay!!!!

What a fabulous start to your trip Rachel........Ashley’s Fools Gold is divine!!

Your daughter is a cutie.......it’s lovely you can get down as many times as you can......that must be so fabulous!!! The kids suite is a wonderful room, and when we saw it when the hotel first opened, I expected it to be smaller, but it’s a good size!

I know what you mean about being extra nice to folks after someone has blatantly been rude......yep, it’s not nice to see that.......I am so looking forward to reading all about your trip!!! :wave2:
 

Pumpkin1172

DIS Veteran
Joined
Sep 14, 2016
:wave2: following along. I love to read trip reports and live vicariously through them ::yes:: I love a great beverage to sip on. It sounds just like what you needed to celebrate that your trip has started!!!! I can't wait to hear more.
 
  • Worfiedoodles

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 19, 2005
    I'm eager to read your trip report! Planning our first Universal adventure in 3 years for this January, can't wait to hear about your wonderful experiences. You are off to a fabulous start. That Fool's Gold drink is absolutely on my list! :D

    Maria :upsidedow
     

    crabbymom

    Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    Yay!!!!

    What a fabulous start to your trip Rachel........Ashley’s Fools Gold is divine!!

    Your daughter is a cutie.......it’s lovely you can get down as many times as you can......that must be so fabulous!!! The kids suite is a wonderful room, and when we saw it when the hotel first opened, I expected it to be smaller, but it’s a good size!

    I know what you mean about being extra nice to folks after someone has blatantly been rude......yep, it’s not nice to see that.......I am so looking forward to reading all about your trip!!! :wave2:
    Thanks for following along! We really liked the kid suite. Plenty of room and the addition of a second bathroom was a life saver! Yes, she is a cutie, and the only girl grandchild in the family so...princess:princess: !!

    :wave2: following along. I love to read trip reports and live vicariously through them ::yes:: I love a great beverage to sip on. It sounds just like what you needed to celebrate that your trip has started!!!! I can't wait to hear more.
    Thanks Pumpkin! I love reading everyones reports as well. so many people see things in different ways, you never know what is going to help!

    I'm eager to read your trip report! Planning our first Universal adventure in 3 years for this January, can't wait to hear about your wonderful experiences. You are off to a fabulous start. That Fool's Gold drink is absolutely on my list! :D

    Maria :upsidedow
    Thanks Worfie! It certainly was a wonderful experience! Florida in January sounds like the best way to spend the winter!
     

    crabbymom

    Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    The next morning, we were out and on the boat early!
    Oh! Before I forget...the view from our room:

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    Not too shabby! We really loved that we had an elevator down to the pool level right by our room. We always ended up setting up shop right in front of the pink house, at the tables around the fire pit. Its super close to the bar! Moving on...we will come back to the pool later!

    I had talked up the water taxi to my brother & BIL so they were exited to see where it docked in City Walk and also excited NOT to go through the security line coming in from parking. Here's us trying to master the "selfie" thing with a group...I don't think my arms are long enough!

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    As you can see, my BIL has all his buttons on...It was his birthday and their anniversary so he got two buttons when we checked in. I had put this in the notes when I made the reservation so we did not have to ask, they were just given to us at check-in.

    We had to stop at guest services to get some ticket stuff worked out, but by about 8:10am we were headed to Diagon Alley! There really is nothing like the look on someones face the first time they turn the corner and see Gringotts Bank and the resident dragon perched on top! I was watching my daughter's face as we came in and it was absolutely priceless. At seven years old she has just started getting into Harry Potter and this area is so well themed.

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    We rode Gringotts twice in a row, then just walked around and absorbed it all, sometimes there is nothing like seeing the park with a "newbie," it makes it all so fresh again! We stopped for some fun pics...

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    Then headed outside to meet Dre and Stan at the Knight Bus. This was the first of many, many times Katie was asked if she was a Weasley! She loved playing along with all of the questions as if she were a Weasley!

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    We then headed over to IOA on the Hogwarts Express. At this point in the day, almost all of the rides were walk-on. Of course when we got off the HE in Hogsmeade, they were already putting the gates up for Hagrid...THAT one is not a walk on! :scared:

    We had to stop and chat with the conductor of course:

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    Then it was on to Flight of the Hippogriff. This one was a bit of a kerfuffle... the posted wait time was 20 minutes, however as soon as we got in line, it was backed up further than I had ever seen it. I had never been stopped outside the greenhouse area before. But we were in line, so we stayed. It ended up being over an hour and we all agreed we should have skipped it and come back later. Also, once we did get on, the ride broke down and all of the lights came on. We had just passed the point where we are sprinkled with floo powder an whooshed away. Except our WHOOSH never came...we got stopped right there, mostly leaning backwards. We ended up stopped for about 15 minutes and then the ride got moving again, but the sound was off. Eventually it all came together, and as we were exiting, there was a Universal employee offering us a ride without waiting to make up for it.

    We were ready for a break though, so we headed to the Jurassic Park Discovery Center. Where the adults can sit while the kids stay entertained. My 21 year old son is a dino enthusiast, he has been ever since he was a toddler so he loves it in here. Katie really liked it too!!

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    Eventually we decided it was time for lunch so we headed to City Walk and Bubba Gump's. Our basic plan for this trip was to head to the parks as early as possible, ride rides until lunchtime, eat lunch, head back to the hotel for some pool/rest time after lunch, then head back to the parks later in the afternoon/evening for dinner and more rides. This worked really well mostly as we were in the pool area for most of the really hot part of the day!

    Lunch was exactly as expected for Bubba Gumps and we took our souvenir glasses and headed back to our room. The Pool at Sapphire Falls really deserves its own post, so I'll be back to share that little slice of heaven!​
     

    schumigirl

    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    Joined
    May 15, 2007
    Good selfie!!!!

    Nice pictures, and love seeing Katie’s meets with the characters......her age is perfect for that.......and yes, love seeing first timers faces! Priceless.

    Isn’t Sapphires pool so pretty! Glad you got to spend some time in it.....

    Look forward to more........
     
  • Monykalyn

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 11, 2014
    Off to a great start! Love Sanford airport-Allegiant is the only one that offers direct flights to Florida from our town. Often I'll drive to StL to get a Frontier flight. Depends on where we are headed and for how long and which flights are more convenient. We usually rent a car when flying into/out of Sanford though
    Great view! We've done Cabana Bay (Loved it!) and RPR (also loved it) and trying Sapphire Falls next month for HHN.
    Looking forward to more
     

    crabbymom

    Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    Good selfie!!!!

    Nice pictures, and love seeing Katie’s meets with the characters......her age is perfect for that.......and yes, love seeing first timers faces! Priceless.

    Isn’t Sapphires pool so pretty! Glad you got to spend some time in it.....

    Look forward to more........
    Oh this trip was so fun because of her age!!! I am so happy we got it in before the sassy pre-teen years kick in!

    More pool coming up!

    Really enjoying your TR!
    Thanks so much!

    Off to a great start! Love Sanford airport-Allegiant is the only one that offers direct flights to Florida from our town. Often I'll drive to StL to get a Frontier flight. Depends on where we are headed and for how long and which flights are more convenient. We usually rent a car when flying into/out of Sanford though
    Great view! We've done Cabana Bay (Loved it!) and RPR (also loved it) and trying Sapphire Falls next month for HHN.
    Looking forward to more
    I love how easy Sanford is, but our one a day Allegiant is always late so it is challenging to find a ride to the resorts...Not challenging enough for me to rent a car (Not willing to drive on I-4!!).
     

    crabbymom

    Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    Well...I had a post all written and ready to go, but then I had some internet issues and it disappeared! So here we go again!
    Back at the resort Katie, Jarod and I headed for the pool, while everyone else decided to nap. We walked around a bit to get our bearings, then scoped out a place to set up camp. We chose the tables around the fire pit area. This worked for several reasons:

    I prefer the regular chairs to loungers
    I had a good view of the slide (Katie will ride waterslides all day!)
    The table had an umbrella - SHADE!
    We were steps away from the bar!

    So all in all, a perfect place and in fact we stayed in that area every day we went to the pool. So after a couple of obligatory trips down the slide, I retired to the table and mulled over my beverage options. This is when we learned of the GIANT beverage options...with (not free, but cheaper) refills!!

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    These bad boys were 45oz of adult beverage, made to share. Once you purchased the first one, the refills were good for the entirety of our stay at Sapphire Falls, we just had to tell the waiter we had already purchased the cup. We made VERY good use of this option!

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    And of course we needed a little nosh while we were there!

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    The other bonus to sitting in this area, was that when Katie finally got tired of playing in the pool, she started building sand castles in the area around the fire pit. Every night the castles would get raked down, so every day she had a new blank stretch of sand to work with!

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    Eventually it was time to get cleaned up and head back over to the parks and dinner. We had planned to hit up Margaritaville tonight...Not that I am a huge fan but it is entertaining for kids with the stilt walking balloon artists, the music, and the volcano. So we headed over and hoped for the best...it was not to be. The food was as expected, not great. But the real let down was the service. It took over an hour for our entrees to be served after our appetizers were cleared. The manager even came by and made mention of how long the food was taking. We were finally served our mediocre food but our server never came back to check on us or apologize or anything. And of course since we were a party of six, 18% gratuity got tacked on automatically.

    Katie did enjoy the stilt walker though.

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    After dinner, no one was in the mood to do anything else, so we just headed back to the resort and called it a night. We were going to try to make it to Ollivanders early the next morning to see if Katie would get picked.
    One last nighttime boat pic!

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  • Monykalyn

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 11, 2014
    Wowza those drinks!!
    Sweet Katie looks like she's having fun!
    I love how easy Sanford is, but our one a day Allegiant is always late so it is challenging to find a ride to the resorts...Not challenging enough for me to rent a car (Not willing to drive on I-4!!).
    I've rarely driven on I-4-we have a toll tag (2 actually-the sticker on hubs car we take on trips when we drive and the removable one) and we use the toll roads. Even when we stay at a Marriott resort I'll take the "back way" to get to Universal or Disney (I despise I-4 too!)
     

    Tink2Day

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 30, 2010
    Great report! Your daughter is adorable (us Gingers have to stick together) and yes she does look like a Weasley. My grandnephew is a dead ringer for Rupert Grint (Ron) but is a number of years younger.
    When he was in Disneyland a number of years ago people were actually asking if he was Rupert....uh they were comparing him to Rupert in the later films though although the two actually looked exactly alike as 11 year olds!!


    Looks like great fun so far. Your BIL was certainly celebrating :rotfl2:
     

    JAMIESMITH

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 26, 2011
    Following along. I'm disappointed Margaritaville wasn't good. That's where we plan to eat dinner our first night there in October.
     

    crabbymom

    Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    Wowza those drinks!!
    Sweet Katie looks like she's having fun!

    I've rarely driven on I-4-we have a toll tag (2 actually-the sticker on hubs car we take on trips when we drive and the removable one) and we use the toll roads. Even when we stay at a Marriott resort I'll take the "back way" to get to Universal or Disney (I despise I-4 too!)
    In years past, we would drive down to save money, but now with Allegient I am happy to skip that part!
    Yes, Katie had a blast in the sand...funny because just a few short years ago, she refused to touch sand at all!

    I'm in for the read.
    Like the size of your drink cups.....
    Welcome! They were some big drinks! Fortunately not too strong.

    Great report! Your daughter is adorable (us Gingers have to stick together) and yes she does look like a Weasley. My grandnephew is a dead ringer for Rupert Grint (Ron) but is a number of years younger.
    When he was in Disneyland a number of years ago people were actually asking if he was Rupert....uh they were comparing him to Rupert in the later films though although the two actually looked exactly alike as 11 year olds!!
    Looks like great fun so far. Your BIL was certainly celebrating :rotfl2:
    Welcome! She is certainly a ginger!

    Following along. I'm disappointed Margaritaville wasn't good. That's where we plan to eat dinner our first night there in October.
    Welcome! We have had really great fun at Margaritaville, so hopefully this was a one off. Usually if you sit in the bar area, the service is better. We wanted to be out on the floor this time for the stilt walkers, but next time we'll head back to the bar.

    Joining in!
    Welcome!
     

    crabbymom

    Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    I am going to try and wrap this up today...Tomorrow I am leaving for Jordan and Egypt for three weeks so probably not going to have too much internet! No kids with me on this trip, me and my mom!


    The next morning we were once again up and out early. This time to Ollivander's Wand Shop. Katie really wanted to get picked (who doesn't??) but she understood that only one kid would get chosen and we had already discussed that if she did get picked, she would keep the wand that chose her, but if she didn't she would pick a wand for herself.
    She was not chosen so into the store we went. After carefully viewing EVERY SINGLE WAND in the shop, she chose Ginny Weasley's wand. Map in hand, off we went to work some magic! She ended up being pretty good at it. Of course her favorites were the water ones...and the dancing heads in Knockturn Alley for some reason (she is Slytherin after all!).
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    We then headed towards Seuss Landing by way of the Fountain...who was on a roll!! Boy did he surprise Katie!

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    She loved it though and stayed and chatted with him for a while. We then moved on to meet some new friends...

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    And our favorite of all...

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    A girl with nice Things! :cutie::cutie::cutie:

    One last day to go! And a dinner so amazing we went back the next night.​
     

    crabbymom

    Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    After our disappointing dinner the night before, we really wanted a yummy dinner. As you can clearly see by my zoftig figure, we love our food! BIL perused all of the menus online and we decided on Vivo. None of us had ever been so we were excited to try. We knew that seating a party of six on a Saturday night would be a challenge, but figured we were not in any rush so off to the water taxi we went!
    We lucked out with the water taxi...it was the Party Boat! We spent the ride engaged in a rousing chorus of YMCA!

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    We all enjoyed it...I was sitting on the front bench facing the boat, so everybody else's "C's" we backwards, but it was still fun! :rotfl:

    When we got to Vivo, the hostess outside was super nice. My BIL has some serious back issues from his days as a firefighter so we always request a regular table; chairs or booth is fine, we just can't do the hightop tables. Outside, the nice hostess said that we should just get in line and by the time we got to the inside hostess, a table should be ready. The line only took like five minutes but when we got to the inside hostess, she was not nice at all. I wouldn't say rude, just very short and not fun like the girl outside. At any rate, she made it very clear that in fact there was not a table ready, and she did not know when there would be one so we should find someplace else to wait and she would call us.

    Hmmmm...not a great impression, but we moved over to the bar where we met Kaitlyn WHO WAS AWESOME!!!
    She made us all super awesome drinks and we had a blast with her while we waited. It was really only maybe 15 minutes before they called us to a table.
    What can I say about dinner at Vivo...it was amazing! Our waiter was excellent and the food was spectacular! Everyone had something different and we loved all of it. On the way out, we stopped off and mentioned to the manager how different this was from our dinner the previous evening. Unfortunately, we are the type of people who rarely complain, but always give kudos when something is great. And this dinner was great. We headed back to the hotel sleepy and full, but happy!

    Our final day at the parks was really just for Katie to ride her favorites again, and to see the Horror Make-Up Show. I love the show, and its never the same twice so it never gets old!

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    Our only other item on this day was Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. Our plan was actually just to have appetizers and dessert. I love the theming there, but the food is mediocre, except the desserts...which defy description.

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    May Contain Nuts

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    Brookie

    After that much sugar it was totally pool time! We spent the afternoon around the pool with giant cocktails and lots of sunshine! My older DS had a friend in town who was playing at a local bar that night so he went with them for the evening, which was cool. The rest of us decided that Vivo was so good, we would go again, so that is where we headed for dinner. And it was awesome again! There were definitely some restaurants that I wanted everyone to try because I love them (Jake's American, Confrisco Grill, Mythos, the tapas at Strong Water) but with only four days there just wasn't enough time. Fortunately, I convinced my brother & BIL to also get AP's so we are all going back again in February, this time we are bringing mom too!

    Thank you all for reading along with us, if you would like to follow my Jordan/Egypt adventure starting tonight, you can follow on Instagram @soccermomtravels

    One last pic from our final evening:

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    Safe travels everyone!
     

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