June 6-12 Trip Report (RPR & CBBR)

TheGatekeeper

Earning My Ears
Joined
May 24, 2020
We are a family of four with two boys ages 7 & 5. My husband and I haven't been to Universal in over a decade. We booked our trip within an hour of Uni officially announcing their reopening. We booked this trip as a substitute for a trip to Cancun that had to be canceled due to C19.
We took the stay-at-home recommendation very seriously and never left the house (except food and pharmacy) or saw family or friends for 12 weeks. We got called back to in-person work on June 1st. My children had a very hard time with the transition of us not being together 24-7 (seems like they were just getting used to the at-home "new normal"-go figure) so we decided to plan a trip to help with transitioning back to the way things used to be. We travel frequently with them so this seemed like the perfect trip.
We traveled June 6th to June 12th. We stayed one night at RPR in a standard 2 queen room and 5 nights in a 2-Bedroom Family Suite with VB View at CBBR. I figured that booking a trip so close to the initial reopening was either going to be a huge mistake or pretty incredible.
Spoiler alert...
IT WAS AWESOME!
To be continued tomorrow...
 

DisneyLifePapioNe

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 9, 2017
So cool!!!!!


I look forward to your review on the CB Suite as my kids have said they would like to stay in one even if it’s a few nights on a trip we do a split stay.
 


schumigirl

It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
Joined
May 15, 2007
We are a family of four with two boys ages 7 & 5. My husband and I haven't been to Universal in over a decade. We booked our trip within an hour of Uni officially announcing their reopening. We booked this trip as a substitute for a trip to Cancun that had to be canceled due to C19.
We took the stay-at-home recommendation very seriously and never left the house (except food and pharmacy) or saw family or friends for 12 weeks. We got called back to in-person work on June 1st. My children had a very hard time with the transition of us not being together 24-7 (seems like they were just getting used to the at-home "new normal"-go figure) so we decided to plan a trip to help with transitioning back to the way things used to be. We travel frequently with them so this seemed like the perfect trip.
We traveled June 6th to June 12th. We stayed one night at RPR in a standard 2 queen room and 5 nights in a 2-Bedroom Family Suite with VB View at CBBR. I figured that booking a trip so close to the initial reopening was either going to be a huge mistake or pretty incredible.
Spoiler alert...
IT WAS AWESOME!
To be continued tomorrow...
Another new trip report!!! Excellent......

I look forward to reading your report too......it sounds like it is much needed and will be fun to read.

Your kids are good ages for Universal and I`m happy to hear it was indeed...….Awesome!!!!

Will wait for more!!!
 
  • TheGatekeeper

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    May 24, 2020
    We flew around 8:30am on SWA out of Dallas. The airport was eerily quiet. We had TSA Pre-Check but there was no line for security, a HUGE difference from when we flew out of there on a Saturday in early March (at 6 am) and would have probably missed our flight had it not been for PreCheck, despite having arrived at the terminal over 2 hours before our flight left. Everyone I saw was wearing masks. We had Whataburger for breakfast, it was one of the only things open. Chickfila was closed. :( Bought water at Hudson News.

    SW boarded by increments of 10s, which made it easier to distance and didn't feel like the usual SW boarding cattle call. Our flight was 1/3 full. Every middle seat was open, along with many rows. We were served room temperature water in a can and a snack mix after takeoff. We were expecting nothing so it was a nice little "surprise".

    We arranged to be picked up by Transportation By Mike. Our driver was prompt and courteous. Nice vehicle with the requested booster seats already in place. We prearranged for a grocery stop and stopped at a store near Uni. I don't remember the name, but it was right next to a liquor store which was an added bonus. Our driver said we were his first ride since March. That news was sad, but not surprising and made us glad to be able to contribute to the tourist economy once again.

    We got to RPR and it was very quiet. No bell service, which made sense once we thought about it. Luggage carts were on the sidewalk so no biggie. We unloaded and walked into the lobby. We were cheerfully greeted by 2 people at podiums with masks. They took our temperature with a touchless thermometer and handed us 4 colored wristbands and explained that those were for the whole day for the entire resort area. There were a couple of hand sanitizer stations there as well.

    I checked in. No line. I believe one family came up, presumably to check-in right as I was finishing up. I booked our one night with an AP rate. I had not yet converted our 4 day park tickets to annuals yet and said as much to the clerk. He didn't seemed to mind and never requested that we come back to show an AP. I checked the invoice upon checkout and verified were we were charged the AP rate. We were given a number to text for any questions or requests. We used it several times, including to check out and always received a quick response. This is a great feature that should never go away. Very convenient.

    We headed to the elevators. Hand sanitizer was there along with instructions to limit the elevator to one party per elevator. That was never an issue as the occupancy was so low. Even though I booked the lowest room category we got a room on a high floor with a lovely view of the pool. I was kind of shocked by how small the room was. I never checked the square footage, fumble by me, but it would not have changed our decision to stay there. 335 sq. ft. is small for 4 people. I thought the room was very nice and clean but I was glad we were only there one night due to the size. I can also confirm that the complaints about the design of the shower and the way the door gets a significant amount of water on the floor when you open it after showering is true. Again, we just sopped it up with towels after drying ourselves, but it may have become a bigger annoyance during a multi night stay with 4 people showering.

    I unpacked, put the groceries in the fridge and we headed out. It was around 3:30.
     

    TheGatekeeper

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    May 24, 2020
    We went to the lobby and I decided to do our tickets at the vacation planning desk instead of the park. There was one couple being helped and they finished quickly. I inquired how much it would be to convert the 4-day 3-park ticket to a Seasonal Pass. I was on the fence as to whether to convert just mine for the hotel discount or do all four of us. It was $40 for each adult and $50 for each kid. The reason being that the kids' multiday park tickets were $10 less and the season passes are the same price for adult or child. Done! Great price for a 15 month pass!!! We also got our quick service dining cards and our tickets for our VB cabana rentals later in the trip.

    We got 4 total adult dining plans. I'm glad we didn't get any more. I thought it was a hassle. I would not get it again. I suppose the best part of it was the freestyle add-on for $10. I did not like that It was presented that you get a QS meal, a snack, one beverage and then the freestyle add-on but they didn't mention you had to get the beverage with the meal, or if it was mentioned, I didn't see it. I don't want to get the beverage with my meal. I don't like to drink with my meals. I know I'm probably in the minority on that. It probably saved us money but I had 4 cards and couldn't remember which one had the meal or snacks or whatever still left on them. It was card chaos. I also didn't like the pressure of ordering higher priced items to "maximize the value" when a cheaper option or just eating off my kids' plates would have suited me just fine. It was not for us but I can see how it could be of benefit to other families who don't get irritated with minor things like I do, lol.

    We walked over to IoA. No line at security, no line to get in. Husband rode Hulk while I stayed with the kids. Very light crowd level. Everyone wearing masks. It was overcast which helped it not be so blazing hot. Took things easy that first evening. Distance markers were clearly laid out in lines. Hand sanitizer administered before every ride. We also sanitized our hands with our own immediately after getting off the rides.

    We rode Spiderman and made our way to Harry Potter. It was our first time to see it. Kids were tired from traveling and are a little young for HP anyway, so they were nonplussed by it but husband and I were blown away. We are not HP fans at all, but the land is spectacular. We are not Star Wars fans either (other than the fact we were kids when the originals came out, so of course we were fans as kids in the 70's and 80's). So not being big fans of either franchise probably takes some thrill from seeing these lands but we both think that HP land is more impressive than SW by a wide margin. And HP is a decade old! My gosh. It's held up. We loved it. We rode Hippogriff and ate at 3 Broomsticks. I had the fish and chips and thought it was really good. Not that impressed by the ribs and chicken, and potatoes were very underdone. Great decor. One person from each party was escorted to the counter to order for the entire party because we had the dining plan. I think we would have had to mobile order otherwise.

    We got caught in an absolute deluge walking back to RPR. We showered, got into dry clothes and enjoyed a cocktail made in-room before turning in for the night.

    Sunday June 7th

    I felt like sleeping in but made myself get up because I had to pack up. I tried to be quiet to give everyone else a little more sleep. Why did I book just one night here, oh yeah...Express Passes. Turns out we really didn't need it because the crowds were so light but I'm glad to have gotten the opportunity to stay at RPR. We liked it very much and now know that we would need a bigger room if we ever stayed there again. And there were a lot of unknowns for us when we made the decision to stay at a premier hotel. We didn't know how the crowds would be or how the reduced ride capacity would affect wait times. All in all, I like the premise of staying at a hotel with EPs for time at US & IoA and then going to CBBR for VB days.

    We did make the split stay a little easier by doing a couple of things. We used packing cubes and had the items we needed for that first night and next day in a couple of specific cubes so unpacking and packing up again didn't really require digging through a bunch of stuff. We also did not buy perishables at the grocery store. I bought Horizon shelf-stable milk for cereal and didn't have to worry about spoilage before we could get to our next room. We also packed a collapsible duffel that we could put our groceries in instead of having half a dozen or more plastic grocery bags full of groceries that luggage services would have to store for us. It made it a lot easier.

    We left our luggage with luggage services and headed to US. In the park a little before 9. No lines at security, or entry. Went to Minions. Man, my kids loved that SO much. They just couldn't believe what they were seeing. It was magical. (see, that other place doesn't own the market on magic :) ) We had a full day. We rode about 10 rides. It was hot. The masks were hard for the kids at certain points. They were sports, though. It helped that a lot of the rides and lines were air conditioned. The Simpsons ride was another hit with the kids, and the SpongeBob store. It was a great park experience. Crowds cause a lot of angst and anxiety of some in my family and this was like a dream. The only downside was popcorn, the boys favorite snack, was a little hard to find. There were a lot of kiosks closed, for good reason. The crowds weren't there to sustain them. Seems like a good trade-off, however, scant popcorn for low crowds. I'll take it! By 2 o'clock we'd had enough and headed back to RPR to retrieve our luggage.

    There was no luggage transfer. I do not know if this is something that they cut back on or never offered it to begin with. It was unfortunate as that is a major perk of split stays at Disney, but we just called an Uber and moved with our luggage to CBBR.

    CABANA BAY BEACH RESORT

    We arrived at CBBR. It was pretty much the same scene as RPR. No activity. I don't think there was anyone in the lobby except for employees. Check-in was fast and we again received a number to text with any questions or requests. The pool with the slide outside the lobby was closed. Too bad, it looked nice. The lobby made me smile. It was just cute as can be. I knew then we were in for a treat staying here.

    We booked a 2 bedroom family suite with VB view. We were on the 9th floor in the Beachside tower. As we made our way to the tower, we did see a few people but not many. It was just enough people to make me not worry we were plopped down in the middle of some kind of bizarre horror movie. We got to the room and opened the door and I swear I heard angels singing. Floor to ceiling windows and a GORGEOUS view of the Volcano. Big TV, large couch and a small dinette table and just-big-enough kitchenette. It was clean, airy, and roomy. The master bedroom, with a queen bed, also shared the great view of the volcano and the boys bedroom (2 queens, I believe) had a really great view of the open pool and lazy river. So much space! 2 bathrooms! We never even used the split wet area that contained just a bathtub. We used it to hang our bathing suits and stored a large suitcase there along with our dirty towels. The two toilets and sinks were invaluable and the shower in the main bathroom was a decent size.

    I never got ice, but my husband said he would feel bad for whoever had a room near the icemaker. I guess it was out in the open in the hall. We had the unfortunate experience of getting a room right outside an ice machine a zillion years ago in Vegas at TI. It was torture.

    We quickly unpacked and put drinks in the fridge and went from room to room staring at the lovely views. We moved the small dinette table closer to the big window and just enjoyed the view of VB while enjoying a cocktail, or two. The boys were thrilled to have their "own" room in a hotel and were lounging on their beds watching Sponge Bob. We were thrilled to have a little quiet and some space to ourselves to enjoy lovely views and good conversation.

    Dinner was at the food court and brought back to the room to eat. There were people at the food court but most were at the pizza counter. I walked right up to the international counter with no wait. The deli was closed. All other areas of the diner seemed operational except the freestyle machines. My kids are such picky eater that even the kids menu items were too exotic. We were prepared for that and had groceries for them. Husband had the Churrasco. It was lovely. Beef was a nice medium, lots of pink, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. I was so impressed it wasn't overcooked that I made a metal note to order it for myself later in the trip. I got the seared tuna with curry. It wasn't bad. The curry was very good. Tuna was very rare, okay quality. Certainly not melt-in-your-mouth seared tuna, but it came from a food court so I was fairly happy with it.

    Monday, June 8th

    Got up and headed for the bus stop back to the parks. There were 2 other small families on the bus with us. We got there in time for EE. Security at City Walk was almost empty. Enjoyed another low crowd day at the parks. The boys LOVED meeting Blue at the Raptor Meet and Greet. They thought it was real and couldn't believe their luck that Blue was actually at the park the same time they were. I wish we were videoing. They don't really have to work at moving the kids along after meeting Blue. Blue has a special way of keeping the kids from lingering. lol. We hit almost all the rides we missed on the prior 2 days. We didn't get to ride Hagrid's and a few other things but there's always next time. We headed back to the hotel a little after noon. We had the bus to ourselves for the ride back.

    We relaxed a bit in the room and then I decided we should go to the pool. It looked great, there was no one there. I looked again. Odd. There's literally no one there, not even lifeguards. We texted the info text number and ask if the pool was closed. Immediate affirmative response. Closed due to lightening in the area. Okay. Cool. But also, huh...weird. We looked down at VB and could see slides operating and people swimming in the wave pool. Okay. Well, either the lagoon at VB will close soon or the pool at CB will open soon. We waited to see how it played out. It didn't. It just stayed the same, for over 20 minutes. We got our suits on and headed to VB. The pool was still closed as we walked by.

    The path to VB was quick. We looked at the CB parking lot as we crossed a small road to the security area on the path. There was no more than 4 cars. There were a lot of spots, hundreds, in fact.

    We took nothing with us to VB except our masks, a couple of towels, and our passes and ids in a ziplock bag . There was no line at security and the entrance. As we entered the park, it was nice to see people but the walkways were still fairly empty. It was easy to distance. Very few people were wearing masks, as it appeared that they were en route to a pool or ride. We made our way to the beach and easily found empty loungers near the water. We took our masks off and put them with our towels and shoes and headed to the wave pool. There was approximately 50 people at the most in the entire lagoon. The boys had a blast. They were initially put out with the life jacket requirement. They are very good swimmers and haven't used life jackets in a couple of years, but it is understandable that this is required. Our oldest was tall enough to be exempt from the jacket requirement, but we didn't even want to hear the constant whining of the little guy if he was the only one made to wear the device, so we just said that those were the rules and it applies to both of them. They never balked at the jacket requirement again. Rare parental victory.

    After swimming for a while and enjoying some waves, curiosity got the best of us. We decided to try out some slides. We rode a couple of the family raft slides. I can't remember the names. We only rode a couple of rides but we rode them multiple times. They were all walk on. It was A LOT of stairs. I was glad it was a slow day because we were slow climbers with the 2 little kids. It was a lot of work for the 5 yo especially. My husband got into the habit of making him climb for the first couple of flights, he would carry him for a flight or two and them make him climb the last bit again. We stayed until the park closed at 5. Once we got past the escalator that goes to the lots and buses, we had the path to ourselves walking back to CB.

    Dinner was Bayliner Diner again in the room. Husband and I split a burger and fries. It was good. Exceeded expectations.
     
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    schumigirl

    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    Joined
    May 15, 2007
    I don`t think you are in the minority with the dining plan.....

    We dont know anyone that uses it. Never considered it for us.

    Yes, non Potter fans are always impressed by those areas, they really are amazing. And I hope the driver you had sees his business improve soon as hopefully more people travel in to Orlando....
     

    dres40

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Dec 5, 2007
    Thanks so much for this report. My daughter and I are planning a trip end of August. I know Covid rates are going up but I think Universal will be okay with all the precautions. We are also planning to travel by train in a private bedroom on Amtrak so I'm trying to be optimistic about our trip. Can't wait to hear more!
     
  • TheGatekeeper

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    May 24, 2020
    Tuesday, June 9th

    I was really excited for today. Cabana day at Volcano Bay! I called to book it right after Uni announced their opening. It was $229 for the day. I was so happy with the price, I booked for Wednesday as well. We got in line at VB about 9:15. There was a live announcer reminding everyone to wear their masks and maintain distancing. Everyone seemed to be complying. Right at 9:30 they started letting people in. We were about 15 people back in our line, there were about 5 different turnstile lines. It never ceases to amaze me that you wait in line for 10, 15 maybe more minutes with people and when they get to the front of the line they still do not have their tickets, ids, and room keys at the ready. How? It's really baffling to me. It's truly amazing and although supremely annoying to be behind folks like this, I'm a little jealous of people that are able to live their lives without the least bit of worry about the future. No cares at all. I am in a constant state of anxiety about not only what the next step will be, but also the step after that, and the one after that, and so on and so on and so on.

    We got into the park quickly anyway and I went to the concierge hut. You walk straight until you see the volcano and then you make a left. The hut for the preferred seating and cabanas is right there. I was about 3rd or 4th in line, so a short wait. Husband and kids just went on to the wave pool because kids just couldn't wait any longer.

    We were assigned a cabana. I rented a top one for views and breeze. We got 13D. I was given 4 wristbands with the cabana number written on it. I was told to stand to the side and someone would be with me to escort me to the cabana. After only a couple of minutes my escort was there. We had pleasant small talk as we walked. He was just helping the concierge hut out this morning. I believe he said he was a team leader. He said that normally there should be 5,000 at VB that day. He didn't think it would hit 1,000. I think he was right.

    Our cabana was in the River Village area, on the path to the Moana slides. Both bottom cabanas were occupied, the cabana next to us up top remained empty. We were right by the road so there was some road noise, I noticed it initially, but then it became just white background noise. After a short while, one of the bottom cabanas became unoccupied. I suppose they asked to be moved. Maybe the road noise? IDK.

    Jhonny, our server, showed up immediately with our huge tray of pasties and fruit. The tray was tied up with a ribbon that had a Volcano Bay hand sanitizer with a carabiner on it. Cute! He filled the fridge with 10 waters. He explained where the menu was, how the safe worked, and how to alert him if we needed anything (it was by a flag hanging off our balcony). He was great. I headed out to find the family and we had a great time riding the water coaster. Over the next 3 days, we rode the water coaster at least 10 times. We loved it! Wait times for it ranged from 20 minutes to 5 minutes. It seems like wait times surged for it right after opening. I think people are conditioned to ride it first. We learned if we waited until mid-morning or later the wait was less. We rode some of the other raft rides and then headed back to the cabana. The kids relaxed with their tablets and rested their legs. The wifi was good there. The ceiling fan was nice. We ordered cocktails, then lunch. We both got the Hawaiian Longboard pizza with ham, pineapple and jalapenos. It was tasty. Husband liked his Tiki Punch. I got the Vol's Fire Punch. It was good. I found I preferred the Haku Puini with the fresh pineapple juice, over Vol's, however.

    While we were all relaxing, Husband decided he wanted to do the Body Plunge slide from the top of the Volcano. I was more than happy to miss out on that and stay back with the kids. I've done smaller slides with a trapdoor and those were plenty thrilling. Plus the prospect of climbing 270 stairs (?) after a morning of stair climbing wasn't appealing to me at all. He took off. Almost an hour later, he showed back up. He looked confused. I thought you'd be upset I was gone so long, he said. Honestly, I didn't really notice. I'm relaxing in a CABANA at Volcano Bay with a lovely COCKTAIL!!! Well, the ride broke down right as he got to the top. After a few minutes people bailed and climbed back down. He didn't want the climb to be for nothing. After a while it was him, another guy and the operator hanging out up there. I think it took about 25 minutes and the ride was ready again. Husband was first in line. The operator looked and him and very seriously asked him to let the lifeguard at the bottom know if he noticed anything wrong with the slide. HA! I love it when people mess with people when they're scared! WHAT A FUN JOB! My husband laughed and a few seconds later the ride was over. He said it was fun but not really worth the effort since it went by so quick. He was glad he did it, though.

    The cabana was a lovely respite from the sun. It wasn't as valuable as it would have been on a crowded day, but it was also not near as expensive. VB was not using any virtual lines the days we were there. It was not necessary since all were walk on or close to it. I could see the tablet that allows you to tap into a ride from the cabana being really valuable on a crowded day. It was also a short day. I believe the last call for food or drinks was 3:30. The park closed at 5. Our cabana server on Wednesday said that last call for cabanas is always 3:30 even when the park is open much later.

    After a long break in the cabana we headed out to explore more of VB. We made our way to the Fearless River for the first time. It was so fun! Every time we would complete a loop, the boys would beg to do it "one more time". I think we went around 6 times. We did more raft slides, everyone but the little guy did Oh Yeah! and we headed back to the cabana, packed up the rest of the waters and fruit and made our way to CB at 5.

    We got Bayliner Diner to go again and ate in the room. We both got the churrasco. Sadly, it wasn't even close to what we got a few days before, in fact, it tasted like it was reheated from a few days before. Both entrees did not have a hint of pink in the beef. It was like leather, barely edible, and even generous amounts of churrasco sauce didn't help with how dry and tough the meat was. However, I did find a nice small bottle of an unoaked chardonnay in the grab n go so all was not lost.

    Wednesday, June 10th

    Today was pretty much like the day before. It was another cabana day at Volcano Bay. We even got the exact same cabana, 13D, which was fine by us. This time the upper cabana next to us was occupied and one of the lower cabanas also had people, so 3 of the four again. Stitch was our server today. He was very friendly. He gave us a number to text to place our orders instead of using the flag. It was a VB issued flip phone so he said don't think it's odd that he would only respond with one letter.

    Today we ordered a burger & fries and coconut shrimp for lunch. The burger was gigantic and very good. The shrimp had a good flavor but a little too bready for my taste. Husband didn't seem to mind.

    As we were walking around the park both days, I noticed that there were a lot of empty cabanas and preferred seating but when you came across a concierge booth, the sign said that both were sold out for the day. When I asked about this I was told it was a staffing issue. They only called back full-time employees and it wasn't enough to staff all the cabanas and reserved seating. It was also mentioned to me that it was another day that they probably didn't reach 1,000 guests and that VB cold hold 10,000 but they cut entry off at 7,000. So the question that comes to mind is that are they instituting the lower capacity based on a percentage (1/3 of normal capacity, I presume) of 10,000 or 7,000 people?

    Dinner was AGAIN at Bayliner taken back to the room. Husband got pizza and I got the vegetable stir fry with curry over rice. Both were good.

    Thursday, June 11th

    Today was the day we were supposed to be flying home but we were having such a great time that I changed flights to Friday so we could have one more day at VB.

    We got a later start since we didn't have cabana that we wanted to squeeze every moment out of. We got to the park about 10:45. Easily found a few loungers with an umbrella. We didn't bring anything of value with us so no locker rental was necessary. We had another great few hours riding rides with no waits, swimming in the wave pool and zooming around the fearless river. We ate lunch at our loungers. A hotdog and jerk shrimp mac and cheese. The mac & cheese was AWESOME. The shrimp weren't big, but plentiful and wonderfully flavored. It was so rich, I could only eat half, but my husband happily wolfed down the rest. I would definitely go out of my way to get this dish again.

    It started raining. We huddled under the umbella, laughing at ourselves for trying not to get rained on at a water park. By the time we finished eating and gathered our things, it was barely raining so we headed for the exit for the sad task of beginning the packing process.
     
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    schumigirl

    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    Joined
    May 15, 2007
    Lol.......love the TM playing mind games with your DH......

    I’m glad you had such a good day at VB. Everyone raves about how good it is.......

    Love the sound of the pizza and cocktails too!!!
     

    macraven

    Proud Redhead
    Moderator
    Joined
    Apr 21, 2003
    Such an awesome review!

    Many thanks for being so thorough.
    We all enjoy reports on VBay!
     
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