Hard Rock Hotel, IOA and Universal Studios Vacation

Dad of 3

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jul 13, 2000
We had a wonderful vacation at Universal Orlando and Hard Rock Hotel and I wish to thank all the contributors to this form and especially the moderators for the information that helped to make our vacation to Universal Orlando a memorial one. We spend three days and two nights at Disney and four days and nights at Universal, but we enjoyed Universal the most, partly because it was my family’s first visit to Universal and the forth trip to Disney. HRH is a gorgeous hotel; the décor, the pool, the rooms and the location are excellent. It is not the Grand Floridian, but I do not believe that was its purpose. In my humble opinion, it is par with the Contemporary. We arrived late on a Friday, to find out that my Deluxe Room reservation tuned into a Pool view reservation, when I showed my confirmation to the front desk clerk, he asked me to wait for a moment and left to the back room, when he returned he had changed our room to a deluxe club room. The hotel was very full that night with 5000 cheerleaders at a competition in the Hard Rock Live the next day, also I was using entertainment book rate, maybe I was bumped, who knows, but the clerk never doubted me and I got more than I had planned. I have never rented a concierge room before, so the extra services of the club room while on vacation was great treat, but it is not the kind of thing that I would not pay lot extra for. The room had to two queens and a pull out bed in the couch, and it easily fit the five of us. A welcome relief from squishing into Dixie Landings room of the previous couple of days. A coffee maker, mini bar ( which we used as a fridge), Hair Dryer and iron are also in the room. Bathroom had small sink and then there was a larger sink and vanity outside of the bathroom. The pool is great, they keep it very warm, which is nice on cool winter evenings. The slide is 205 ft long and has a nice dip in the middle. The Jacuzzi is hot! Which again makes it tough to get out of it in the winter. We had one dinner at the Sunset Grill, it was delicious ( I recommend the salmon) and the service was very good, but the hotel restaurants have a lot competition with Citywalk a seven minute walk way. I realize that the HRH wants to be an upscale Hotel, but they should realize that many families want a simpler meal some times and they will slip away to International drive to get it. A cafeteria type restaurant in addition to the other fine restaurants will capture these guests business. Let’s face it, when we want a good meal even though I would prefer the food at the Sunset Grill, my kids are going to prefer the burger at Margaritaville with the guy with the stilts making balloon hats. By the way, the waiter told me that Margaritaville will no longer accept Universal Fun Club discounts, however the manager did give us the discount.
The parks are great and everything is in easy walking distance to Hotel. We enjoyed the parks all day, without spending time waiting in line, then walked to the hotel had a drink in the club room and swim in the pool and then walked over to Citywalk and enjoyed some nightlife. No buses, no trains, no parking lots, no traffic, no folding and lugging strollers in and out of the car or bus. This is true family vacation, at least from a Dad’s point of view which is something the expansive Disney complex will never be able to provide. Here are our highlights and tips.

Universal Studios
There was not an attraction that we did not like in US. However, we missed the Animal Show, and Make-up show. We split up several times and kept in touch with FRS radios.

Favorite Attractions:
Sons (8 & 11 years) – Men In Black (7 times), Terminator2, Wild West Show, Nickelodeon Tour, Back to the Future
Son (3) – Barney, ET, Curious George, Hanna-Barbera ride.
DW – Back to the Future, Barney (she said it much better that the stage show she had paid for several years ago), MIB,
Me – BTTF, Earthquake, Blues Brothers, MIB

Other attractions that we enjoyed,
Jaws, Twister, BeetleJuice, woody woodpecker kid zone,

Least Favorite:
Kongfrontation – uninspiring

Park Restaurants
International Food Bazaar- the international part was closed only pizza, burger and fries.
Richter’s Burger Co. – good grilled chicken breast sandwiches

IOA
One of the best theme park including all the Disney ones in our opinion. We did everything, except bilge-rat raft water ride. Too cool to get soaked.

Favorite Attractions:
Son (11) – Spiderman, Sinbad show,
Son (8) – Dueling Dragons, Spiderman, Hulk.
Son (3) – Caro-Seuss-El ( I thought I was going to have to dig it up and bring it home), the red and blue fish ride (on cool wet days they turn off the water, but as soon as the sun is out, look out), Circus show, Camp Jurassic
DW and mine – Spiderman (the best ride – truly awesome, even die hard Disney fans would have to concede that this is the best simulation ride anywhere.), Poseidon’s Fury (a highly underrated show in my opinion), Dueling Dragons, Ripsaw Falls (we liked it better than Splash Mountain, but it is wetter).

Other attractions that we enjoyed,
Cat in the Hat, The flying Unicorn, Jurassic Park River Ride, Triceratops (only one encounter operating), Poppy’s Ship, Met allot of Characters.

Least Favorite:
Dr Doom’s Freefall – our family likes high intensity rides, this one is just dull in our opinion. But we cannot understand why everyone likes Tower of Terror so much.

Park Restaurants
Confisco Grill for Character Lunch – everyone enjoyed and ate all their meals, a rarity in our family. Thai noodles are very good. Character’s are entertaining, but we had met most previously in the park. Again I guess it was we were there on such a light crowd day.
Circus McGurkus – The show was very entertaining and good audience interaction. The food was OK. But I think the kids enjoyed character meal as much as Confisco.
The Enchanted Oak Tavern – Great Deals at Happy Hour 3-5PM
Arctic Express – good funnel cakes!

Front of the Line.
If you go to the park on a cool drizzly day in February, you don’t need to use FOTL access very much because the lines are short or non existent. However, when we did use usually on coasters and thrill rides, it was great. At the front of every ride show your Hotel key to the cast member and they will direct you to usually to the exit where you walk back to the loading area and a cast member put you on the next ride. Never had a problem or issue even when repeating a ride many times. But like I said, with small crowds for shows we often just get in line with rest of the crowd because we would get in the next show anyway. Sometimes with FOTL, you can miss some interesting events in the pre-show. With FOTL access to T2, you miss the pre-show which sets the whole plot to the movie. But I suppose this would be little consolation in the summer when there is a hour wait.

I will happy to answer any question that you may have.

Dad of 3.

:)
 
Mahalo for the detailed report. :)

Were you able to use your Universal Fan Club card anywhere else or is it being limited all over?

Was there a scale in the bathroom at HRH? They had it on the official site and I could not understand why they would have one.

Did you have a Loews member card? If you did, did you receive any benefits?
 
Hi Dad of 3,

Great trip report! I loved reading about your trip it brought back memories of my own. :D What a nice surprise that Hard Rock gave you a concierge room to compensate for thier mistake. How did you find the food offered? Did you take advantage of it? Did you happen to go over to Portofino and take a look around? Sounds like the kids really enjoyed themselves. What was offered at happy hour at the Oak Tavern? I wanted to swing by there and never got the chance. Can you tell me which characters you saw at Circus McGurkus? We didnt go there either. Thank you again for all the details. :D

jessica5.gif
 
Wow! Concierge! Lucky you. :) I'm happy you reported on the HRH. My dh's also loves the fact he only had to get on a boat(from PBH) to get to the parks.

It's nice you took the time to post.
 
My answers to your questions.

Were you able to use your Universal Fan Club card anywhere else or is it being limited all over?
1) The only restaurant, I got a discount was Margaritaville, I remember that it could be used at on some citywalk restaurants. I recall trying to use it a counter service once, but they did not accept it. We did use it for 10% off merchandise in the US and IOA. I was refused a discount on merchandise at the Margaritaville store. I got better deals on the park tickets and hotel rooms from other programs.

Was there a scale in the bathroom at HRH? They had it on the official site and I could not understand why they would have one.
2) Yes they have a scale in the room too, which I believe is a cruel joke for those on vacation.

Did you have a Loews member card? If you did, did you receive any benefits?
3) Yes, I did have the Lowes member card and I showed it when I registered, but that was when I was told that the we had a pool view room. But, I had booked the Deluxe Room which they could only fill on the club level. Since the club level has fresh baked cookies around nine every night, I guess we got the benefits too.

Answer to Jessica’s questions,
The concierge room has continental breakfast starting around 8. It consists of cereals, Danishes, croissants, muffins, yogurts, bagels which you could toast and add cream cheese, juices and coffee. We took advantage of this every day.
The evening concierges start at 5 with opening of the bar. The food did not arrive until later and was pretty much pick-over by 6:30. I never could seem to time it right. I always managed to get a drink with some cheese and crackers, but we would be having so much fun in the pool or at the park that we forgot. Once when I and the older boys went to IOA in the late afternoon to do some coasters, DW and our youngest son stayed in the pool and passed the Club Room when the food was out, she snagged some sandwiches. They had shrimp one night, but we missed it.
There was fresh baked cookies every night with coffee and milk. The kids had some, but I found the cookies quite sweet.

Did not get to Portofino, just saw it from our Hotel window. It looked nice.

The oak tavern have 1/2 price drinks at happy hour. 16 oz beer was $2.10 (I think). The food looked and smelled good, but we just had drinks. The bar was quite lively, but I did not notice any entertainment at the time.

At Circus McGurkus, we saw all Suess Characters including McGurkus, Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and 2, Funny zoo creatures, Sam I am, and The Grinch. It was a good show and the characters stayed around after the show for pictures. Our kids liked it as much as Confisco. There is two lunch shows and a Birthday party show later in the afternoon. We did not see that one.

Here is some other tidbits, I since recalled.
I took our room keys in and out of my or DW pocket all day for FOTL, by the second day somehow all the keys except one got de-magnetized. The Front desk had to make up new ones. I had to show them picture ID, which is good.

The gate which leads from hotel pool to the walkway to the parks has a room key reader to unlock it. The reader does not read even good keys very well., however since the gate is only four feet tall, simply reach over and lift the handle from the other side. Why they attempt to lock this gate is a mystery.

I will happily answer any more questions.

Dad of 3
 
Hi Dad of 3,
Just wanted to add my thanks to those already posted. We "detail junkies" just love all the info. We'll be staying at club level for 3 nights starting 2/18. I'll try to be as helpful when I report back.


Regards,
Kate
 
Thanks again Dad of 3. I got a pretty good deal for the club level so I am going for it! I'm sorry I missed Circus McGurkus with the kids last trip. I will be sure now to check it out next family trip. Thank you also for the info on the room keys! You are so very helpful. :D

jessica5.gif
 
My wife and i just got back from HRH universal and ioa and had a great time.We had a club room also and loved all the rides at universal.We did not go on any at IOA as the days we were there it was cold and raining and we do not like rollercoasters etc.We did have a great time at universal and liked MIB,Twister,and terminator2 the best.We found back to the future to be to violent it thru us all over and we both had bad headaches after it.One of the workers said that it was one of the older rides in the park and the hydralics was old and needed work.We did spend a lot of time in the pool.It was great it was heated and was nice and warm as long as you did not get out in the air.We did not eat in the hotel as we found the prices very high.The Palm restaurant is a 4 star place but with kids it would break you.The grill on the lower level is also high we found it better to go outside the park on kirkman or to go to citywalk. Margaritaville was the best of them all but hard rock cafe was cool too.My wife and i both love this hotel and the area and can not wait to go back.We have had enough of the disney stuff for awhile... :)
 
Can someone explain to me what a Lowes member card is and how do you obtain it? Does it give you additional discounts?

Thanks

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