Lebeau Family Trip Report 2018: Universal Orlando

lebeau

Mouseketeer
Joined
Apr 2, 2008
That was nice they offered to replace the plastic envelope/pouch too.

I'm looking forward in what you say next about your vacation!

Your girls have such big smiles in the picutes.


And you, in the selfie, can't see your smile.......jk
Thanks, the girls enjoy photo ops. Kara in particular is a ham.

We have a bit of unfinished business to attend to in the next trip. You'll see what I mean as the trip report progresses. We have been debating between trying out Hard Rock as it is the only deluxe hotel we haven't stayed at and going back to Portofino Bay. I think the shallow pool at Hard Rock is likely to be a deal breaker unless their is a major price difference between the two. We're also considering club level this time around.

You are lucky, I wanted to meet the Doc and never saw him the whole trip. Did run into a number of other characters, but missed all the Marvel ones too.
I have seen Doc by the DeLorean, but we keep running into him on the bridge just past Transformers. This was the second year in a row that we just happened to run into him there. What's funny is, he is able to walk around without being mobbed. I don't think a lot of people realize he is anything other than a kooky tourist. It's terrific because we have him all to ourselves.

Enjoying your trip report! (Ok I admit I clicked the link to your blog and binged on the entire report already) but Ill keep reading here too!
<shameless plug>Blog reading is highly encouraged! ;) It's true. I write the entire trip report up in advance on the blog and then transfer it here in chunks. If anyone wants to read ahead, it's all up there. </shameless plug>
 

schumigirl

It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
Joined
May 15, 2007
Thanks, the girls enjoy photo ops. Kara in particular is a ham.

We have a bit of unfinished business to attend to in the next trip. You'll see what I mean as the trip report progresses. We have been debating between trying out Hard Rock as it is the only deluxe hotel we haven't stayed at and going back to Portofino Bay. I think the shallow pool at Hard Rock is likely to be a deal breaker unless their is a major price difference between the two. We're also considering club level this time around.



I have seen Doc by the DeLorean, but we keep running into him on the bridge just past Transformers. This was the second year in a row that we just happened to run into him there. What's funny is, he is able to walk around without being mobbed. I don't think a lot of people realize he is anything other than a kooky tourist. It's terrific because we have him all to ourselves.



<shameless plug>Blog reading is highly encouraged! ;) It's true. I write the entire trip report up in advance on the blog and then transfer it here in chunks. If anyone wants to read ahead, it's all up there. </shameless plug>
lol...…..we did hear someone ask a few years back if doc was a character or just a little odd...…...they obviously hadn't seen or heard of the movies!!!!

Portofino pools are so much better than HRH!! The pools at PB are lovely and you can actually swim in them...….and their club lounge is a little in need of a revamp too, but the food is excellent and staff are lovely.

We`ve spent all of them and PB is our second favourite………

Your girls are adorable!!!!
 


lebeau

Mouseketeer
Joined
Apr 2, 2008
lol...…..we did hear someone ask a few years back if doc was a character or just a little odd...…...they obviously hadn't seen or heard of the movies!!!!

Portofino pools are so much better than HRH!! The pools at PB are lovely and you can actually swim in them...….and their club lounge is a little in need of a revamp too, but the food is excellent and staff are lovely.

We`ve spent all of them and PB is our second favourite………

Your girls are adorable!!!!
Thanks, we're fond of them The girls that is. We like the deluxe hotels too.

The main pool at Portofino is our favorite of all the hotels we have stayed at in Orlando. We spent a lot of time there. I bet Kara spent as much time in the pool as she did in the parks! Josie always wants to go into the deep part of the pool so when I told her that HRH was shallow, she was over staying there.

There were parts of Portofino Bay that looked their age. I think a refresh is overdue in some of the hallways we walked through. Fantastic hotel overall, but there are areas where some TLC is needed. Also, we found housekeeping to be really subpar. We have stayed at Royal Pacific which I know from your reports is your favorite. I would put it on par with PB, but if we had to choose we preferred PB just a bit.
 
  • lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008


    We got off to a slow start Saturday morning. We had gotten up early the day before in order to take advantage of early admission to Volcano Bay. The girls spent the rest of the day recovering from their fun in the sun. Kara, in particular, was dealing with bad sunburn. Fortunately, a full night’s rest did her a world of good. She bounced back the next morning redder, but energetic. We had plans to meet up with some of Mindy’s friends for dinner so our park time was going to be during the day. But before we took that on, the girls wanted to get some breakfast.


    Breakfast at Trattoria del Porto
    We still had a few donuts left from the big pink box I bought on the first morning of our stay, but the girls wanted something more substantial. We had been riding a sugar rush the first few days and everyone was ready for some real food. After reviewing our options, we decided to visit Trattoria del Porto which is the least expensive of the sit-down restaurants at Portofino Bay. They offer a breakfast buffet that appealed to the girls. At $20/plate, it was pricey but everyone could get what they want and no one would go away hungry.


    I opted to forego the buffet and order off the menu instead. I have been watching my calories this year and a result my appetite isn’t what it once was. I find I get full a lot faster than I used to so I would rather order the specific dish I want rather than load up on lots of less appealing buffet offerings. What I wanted was Eggs Benedict. The last time I remember having the rich egg dish was on our Disney Cruise in 2015. Ironically, that was part of a buffet. While serviceable, I was craving the real thing this time.


    Trattoria del Porto offered an Italian variation called Eggs Beneditto with prosciutto and a tomato Hollandaise. I considered giving it a shot but ultimately decided to play it safe with the classic breakfast. It did not disappoint. Everything was delicious and it was the perfect amount of food. The eggs were served with a grilled tomato covered in cheese, a hash brown and a couple of spears of asparagus which also went well with the sauce.

    My decision to order a la carte wasn’t about saving money which was good because the cup of coffee I ordered was $4. With the drink, my breakfast was only two dollars cheaper than the buffet would have been. So from a price perspective if you plan to order a drink with your breakfast ordering off the menu is pretty much a wash. I would still choose the plated dish over the buffet, but depending on you may reach a different conclusion.


    The girls were all satisfied with the buffet. As these things go, there was a fair amount to choose from. No way would it have been worth $20 a plate outside of an Orlando theme park hotel, but given the location these prices are expected. The buffet included most of the items you would expect to find. They had a machine that made pancakes with the press of a button. The kids got a kick out of seeing pancakes roll off of a conveyor belt onto their plates. There were also a few unusual offerings some of which made sense given the hotel’s Italian theme and some of which seemed random.








    Trattoria del Porto – Frittatas



    Trattoria del Porto – Chicken Sausage



    Trattoria del Porto – Stir Fry Noodles​
    Islands of Adventure
    After a leisurely breakfast, we were ready to make our way to the parks. We stopped back at the room to pick up the girls’ wands for a little spell-casting. We didn’t have any set plans, but the timing was right to do the Raptor Encounter in Jurassic Park. When this experience was introduced, we watched it from afar. Ever since, Mindy has wanted to get up close with the dinosaur herself. The kids found that idea less appealing, but they were ready to break out the wands for the first time this trip. With those goals in mind, we set off for Islands of Adventure.


    Mindy wasn’t too happy with me snapping her picture and I will hear about it when she reads this report and sees that I included it here. I wanted to show what it was like pulling in and out of Portofino Bay in the water taxis. As you can see in the background, the view is very nice. Mindy’s wearing her “Mother of All Things” T-shirt. Last year, she couldn’t bring herself to buy one from the gift shop. She later regretted her indecision and decided to pick up the souvenir this time around. The discount from out annual passes made that a little more reasonable.


    When we arrived, I wanted to check the Lost and Found to see if my credit card had been recovered from the night before. Mindy and the girls went to the restroom. I finished up before they did, so I snapped a picture of the sign above. The word play amused me. It became a private running gag that I took a picture of the signage outside each of our restroom stops for the day. So you have that to look forward to.

    Marvel Superhero Island

    As we made our way through Marvel Superhero Island we saw that several of the characters were out. There was no wait whatsoever to see the bad guys, so we struck our most evil poses. Dr. Doom was characteristically arrogant. He ordered us into position and then told us to move along quickly once our picture had been taken.


    Next up was the Green Goblin whose villainy included palming the top of Kara’s head like a pumpkin bomb. Or maybe he was squeezing it. I’m not sure which. I have to give Kara credit for playing along. Josie didn’t want any part of pictures with these guys, but Kara enjoyed it despite not really knowing who they were.


    The only hero we saw out was Captain America, but he is easily my favorite Marvel character so that was fine by me. Next year, I will make an effort to track down Spider-Man and maybe the X-Men. But any time I can visit with Cap I am a happy fan. A Universal employee announced that Cap had a scheduled break coming up in five minutes, but he spent quite a bit of time chatting with us before posing for a picture.

    He asked where we were from. Kara said Kentucky so Cap said he was from New York. “Brooklyn?” I offered. He nodded appreciatively. We had watched Cap interact with the kids in line ahead of us and he paid them a lot of attention. He did the same with Kara. We told him all about the villainous activity we had witnessed down the block. He said that the Green Goblin was trying to warp the brains of children to make them villains like himself and confirmed with Kara that it hadn’t worked. After our action pose, Cap bid us farewell with a hearty all-American handshake.

    There was a photographer on hand who took our picture, but she didn’t notice I had a card for the photo package in my lanyard. She had already scanned our picture onto a separate card. She handed me the card and told me I could have it added to my account at the photo shop. I took the card to the shop, but the girl who tried to transfer it didn’t instill a lot of confidence in her ability to complete my request. Sure enough, the picture never showed up on my account.

    We bought the photo package last year on sale and I wasn’t overly impressed with it. I wouldn’t have purchased it again, however, this year they had an annual passholder special that would cover both our trips for $80. I figured that was worth it for the ride photos alone, but there is definitely room for improvement where Amazing Photos is concerned.


    And three meet-and-greets after our previous pit stop, it was time to visit another restroom. This sign featured Namor the Submariner, aka Marvel’s Aquaman. The implication that he was swimming through toilets got a chuckle out of me. Josie was not at all amused that we hadn’t made it through a single land without a bathroom break.

    Cartoon Lagoon

    It was already getting pretty hot out. Hot enough that I was considering the wetter rides found in Cartoon Lagoon. But Josie insisted on a strict “no water”policy so we pressed on to Jurassic Park. We did stop periodically to take advantage of some of the fun photo ops in the area. For this one, Josie was trying to jump for some reason. I was supposed to get the picture while she was in midair but my timing was off.


    I’m not sure what Kara’s up to. Jumping? Dancing? There’s just no telling.


    They were really enjoying hamming it up. In this one, they are pretending to be sick from mixing rides and pizza.


    The girls don’t know any of the characters from this old comic strips. I remember a lot of them from the 80’s. Some of the older ones I know from reprints. But the girls didn’t have a clue. That didn’t matter though. They were just having fun goofing off.


    Jurassic Park Raptor Encounter
    As we moved into Jurassic Park, the girls were apprehensive. They did not want to ride the River Adventure and they did not want to meet a dinosaur. I don’t think Skull Island appealed to them a whole lot either. If it were up to them, we’d have skipped right to Hogsmeade where they could start casting spells. I made a point of checking out the River Adventure during my solo excursion because I wasn’t sure the kids would ride it. Ditto Kong. But one way or another, Mindy was going to get her chance to do the Raptor Encounter.

    The line wasn’t bad at all. I think we waited about five minutes to be herded into the show area. Roughly two dozen or so guests are brought in together and we are given a spiel from a dinosaur handler. The trainer reassures guests that they are perfectly safe while not so subtly suggesting he expects a few of us to be eaten.

    Our raptor was named Kilo. Blue from Jurassic World began making appearances the next day. After Kilo made her entrance, families met with her one by one. A team member was on hand to take pictures on your camera or device so everyone could get in. The trainer positioned everyone with their backs to the dinosaur for maximum scares.


    The girls quickly let the trainer know that they were not interested in meeting Kilo. He positioned them several feet in front of us so they could still be in the picture without being in harm’s way. Kilo got in close and roared. I will let the pictures tell the story here.








    There were screams followed by laughter. The entire encounter took less than two minutes, but it was a memorable experience. Everyone had a good time, but Mindy enjoyed it the most. It’s something everyone should make time for at least once.

    Next: The kids finally get to cast some spells
     

    schumigirl

    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    Joined
    May 15, 2007
    I’ve got to ask.........stir fry noodles for breakfast???? :confused3 I’ve visited Italy a few times and have never seen that anywhere!!! A little odd........

    Your pictures are lovely as always........love Doom, Green Goblin and Capt America.........the interactions with them are always fabulous.........

    Nice seeing some pictures of Mindy too!! Hope you don’t get into too much trouble it’s a lovely picture of her on the boat.........and your daughters look to be having a ball!!! You all do actually......and yes, the raptor encounter is something everyone should do once.......at least.........:thumbsup2
     

    lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008
    I’ve got to ask.........stir fry noodles for breakfast???? :confused3 I’ve visited Italy a few times and have never seen that anywhere!!! A little odd........

    Your pictures are lovely as always........love Doom, Green Goblin and Capt America.........the interactions with them are always fabulous.........

    Nice seeing some pictures of Mindy too!! Hope you don’t get into too much trouble it’s a lovely picture of her on the boat.........and your daughters look to be having a ball!!! You all do actually......and yes, the raptor encounter is something everyone should do once.......at least.........:thumbsup2
    Every time Mindy appears in a trip report, she threatens my life. But I am still here, so...

    The stir fry noodles for breakfast seemed random to me, but I think if I had gotten the buffet I'd have had to put some on my plate just to try them.

    Cap is my favorite Marvel character by far. That goes back before the movies made him popular. I tend to gravitate towards the good and pure heroes as opposed to the grim and gritty antiheroes Marvel is often known for. Plus, he throws a shield! Seeing the villains was fun. Next year, I will make an effort to see Spider-Man. If the X-Men are out, I'll visit but they won't be a priority.

    The raptor encounter is a lot of fun. The wait can be a little long - especially if you are spoiled by EP. But I would definitely recommend every Universal fan find a time when the wait is reasonable and check it out.
     

    macraven

    Proud Redhead
    Moderator
    Joined
    Apr 21, 2003
    I have a real thing for Dr Doom so delighted you included his picture.
    I love his humor.


    Your family sure knows how to have fun at the parks.
    All the pictures are smiling faces.

    Do :thumbsup2 of your avatar pic!
     
  • schumigirl

    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    Joined
    May 15, 2007
    Every time Mindy appears in a trip report, she threatens my life. But I am still here, so...

    The stir fry noodles for breakfast seemed random to me, but I think if I had gotten the buffet I'd have had to put some on my plate just to try them.

    Cap is my favorite Marvel character by far. That goes back before the movies made him popular. I tend to gravitate towards the good and pure heroes as opposed to the grim and gritty antiheroes Marvel is often known for. Plus, he throws a shield! Seeing the villains was fun. Next year, I will make an effort to see Spider-Man. If the X-Men are out, I'll visit but they won't be a priority.

    The raptor encounter is a lot of fun. The wait can be a little long - especially if you are spoiled by EP. But I would definitely recommend every Universal fan find a time when the wait is reasonable and check it out.
    lol...….glad to hear it!!!

    Yes, I may have had to try the noodles too...….not quite sure about that though.....

    We did the Raptor experience first thing in the morning when there was one couple in front of us......we were lucky to arrive just as they started lining folks up......it was fun though.
     

    pattyw

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 7, 2008
    Trattoria buffet look wonderful!!:thumbsup2

    Nice character pictures with the Marvel characters!

    I really want to do the Raptor encounter! By the time we've gone by it usually has a really long line!

    I like your pictures of your girls- they are so happy to be on vacation!:)
     

    lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008
    Trattoria buffet look wonderful!!:thumbsup2

    Nice character pictures with the Marvel characters!

    I really want to do the Raptor encounter! By the time we've gone by it usually has a really long line!

    I like your pictures of your girls- they are so happy to be on vacation!:)
    I would recommend making a point of getting to the Raptor Encounter just before the first show. I think that's usually round 10:00. It's worth it to do it once.

    Writing the trip report, I realized that we didn't actually ride all that many attractions despite having had EP. We spent a lot of time just hanging out and soaking up the atmosphere. As you can see from the pictures, the girls are just having fun being there. When I hear people complain that there is not enough to do at Universal or that there are too many screen-based attractions, I think they are probably rushing from one ride to the next. It's much more enjoyable if you slow down and take it all in. There is so much to enjoy that doesn't involve waiting in a queue to board a ride vehicle.
     

    pattyw

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 7, 2008
    Writing the trip report, I realized that we didn't actually ride all that many attractions despite having had EP. We spent a lot of time just hanging out and soaking up the atmosphere. As you can see from the pictures, the girls are just having fun being there. When I hear people complain that there is not enough to do at Universal or that there are too many screen-based attractions, I think they are probably rushing from one ride to the next. It's much more enjoyable if you slow down and take it all in. There is so much to enjoy that doesn't involve waiting in a queue to board a ride vehicle.
    That's wonderful advice!:thumbsup2 We all should take time to "smell the roses!! ":)
     
  • schumigirl

    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    Joined
    May 15, 2007
    I would recommend making a point of getting to the Raptor Encounter just before the first show. I think that's usually round 10:00. It's worth it to do it once.

    Writing the trip report, I realized that we didn't actually ride all that many attractions despite having had EP. We spent a lot of time just hanging out and soaking up the atmosphere. As you can see from the pictures, the girls are just having fun being there. When I hear people complain that there is not enough to do at Universal or that there are too many screen-based attractions, I think they are probably rushing from one ride to the next. It's much more enjoyable if you slow down and take it all in. There is so much to enjoy that doesn't involve waiting in a queue to board a ride vehicle.
    lebeau...........yep, it usually opens 10am.......we were there just before, and agree, we were just in time to start lining up before the majority of folks knew it was there.......

    That’s the way we tour that way all the time.........we soak up as much atmosphere as we can and never rush from one ride to another..........one of the reasons most of us here would never advise someone to do both parks in one day.......you just can’t experience all there is to offer that way.......

    Taking it easy works for us too.........:thumbsup2
     

    lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008

    Our agenda for the day was pretty light. After a leisurely breakfast, we had spent most of the morning clowning around in Cartoon Lagoon and hanging out with the residents of Marvel Superhero Island. We had just checked off one of Mindy’s must-do’s by visiting the Raptor Encounter in Jurassic Park. It was a hot day, so the River Adventure sounded like a pretty good idea but the kids weren’t having it. They were ready to cast some spells in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter so we made our way to Hogsmeade instead.



    We bought interactive wands for the kids last summer and used them pretty extensively. With the exception of a couple of spell locations that were inoperative and the ones in Knockturn Alley, we tried out all of the spellcasting locations in both halves of the Wizarding World. Previously we had taken advantage of early park admission to do our spell-casting when the park was relatively empty. That was not the case today, but even though Hogsmeade was somewhat crowded we didn’t have any long waits for casting spells.


    Kara has been on a mission to get chosen for the wand show at Olivander’s. Josie was selected to participate on our very first visit to Universal, but Kara has only been an observer. We tried again in between spells, but alas she was passed over once again. I think she’s still a little on the short side. Last year we talked to the “wand master” after the show and they told us that typically the wand chooses its own around age 10. Well, Kara will be ten next year so she is convinced that will she will be selected for the show then, but she’s short for her age so we’ll see how that goes. I have promised her we will go to the show as often as she likes until she gets chosen.




    Josie has her phone out. I think she was taking video of her spell as she was casting it. Now that they had some experience with spellcasting, they were able to complete most of the spells within the first couple of attempts. There were helpers nearby who stepped in if anyone appeared to be stuck. The girls only needed an assist on one of the spell locations. After a few windows, they were ready to get out of the heat.




    The girls had some birthday money burning holes in their pockets so they were excited to get into some of the shops. Our first stop was the candy store. For the first time, I believe we actually got out of the store without making any purchases. Just some browsing.

    When we got back out into the heat, the girls started complaining so we decided to take a break and try to cool off. I had wanted to hold off until we got to Diagon Alley because there were some specialty drinks I wanted to try, but I realized that the time had arrived for us to cool off. So we made our way into Hog’s Head to grab a few drinks.




    We asked for four ice waters because hydration was critical at this point. I ordered a cold butterbeer because at some point in a Universal vacation you just have to have one. I actually prefer the frozen drink but if I drink it too fast it gives me brain freeze. The cold variety is almost as good and a lot less risky. Josie decided to try pumpkin juice which tastes like a cider with pumpkin pie spice. She liked it, but could only drink so much of it. We ended up bringing most of it back to the room where I ended up drinking more of it than she did.

    Kara selected a lemonade which ended up being a lot more powerful than your garden variety lemonade. It was both sweeter and more tart than what we were accustomed too. Nobody drank much of that one. Since it was expensive, I did my best to get my money’s worth but we probably threw out at least half of it.


    We grabbed a seat in the Three Broomsticks and took our time with our drinks. The food smelled pretty good, but we had a big breakfast so we weren’t ready to eat again just yet. While I was working on Kara’s lemonade, all three girls were sipping the foam off the top of my butterbeer. If it were an option, they would just get a cup of foam but I’m sure J. K. Rowling would not approve.




    We have sat in Three Broomsticks before but we have yet to have a meal here. Partially, that’s because the menu doesn’t appeal to the picky eaters in my family. We did take some time to enjoy the Harry Potter theme.




    We walked around a little before we left. I made sure to point out the three broomsticks that give the restaurant its name. The girls were pretty sure that they belonged to Ron, Hermione and Harry. I don’t think that’s right but I didn’t bother to contradict them. I’m not up on my Harry Potter lore and I am not invested enough to read up on the backstory.


    Prior to the trip, I had talked with each member of the family to determine which attractions they wanted to ride and which ones to skip. If there were any doubts, we watched ride videos. I had several discussions with the kids in which they generally agreed to ride just about anything except Jurassic Park. At home, Kara was pretty brave. She wasn’t going to ride the Hulk or Rip, Ride, Rockit, but I had no expectation that she would. However, she was actively excited about the prospect of seeing Buckbeek and Hagrid’s hut on Flight of the Hippogriff.


    That excitement quickly vanished when we approached the ride. In person, the ride was bigger than she expected and she decided she didn’t feel up to it. Josie and I rode it last year and neither of us was overly impressed. It’s a fine kiddie coaster but it’s a very short ride. The only reason we would have ridden it was that it is something we could all ride together. Since Kara opted out, we decided to move on. I wasn’t remotely surprised when Kara also backed out of Forbidden Journeys. If she wasn’t feeling up to the kiddie coaster, it wasn’t going to be much of a day for rides.




    I know my kids well enough to have anticipated this. That is why the night before I made a point to experience the Hulk, Kong, Jurassic Park and Forbidden Journeys during my solo excursion. Since I had ridden them all, I wasn’t at all put out that the kids weren’t feeling up to them. It would have been nice to ride some of these attractions as a family and I was still hoping we could convince the kids to try out the Jurassic Park River Adventure so Mindy could experience it. But we were having fun even if we hadn’t ridden any attractions yet and that’s really the point of a family vacation.


    Our first ride of the day turned was the Hogwarts Express. We decided to hit up some of the spell locations in Diagon Alley before we took our afternoon break. Last year, we covered most of the spells except for Knockturn Alley. As hot as it was, the air conditioning in that area sounded appealing.




    The primary advantage of taking multiple trips to Universal is that you don’t feel any pressure to squeeze everything into one trip. The idea is to knock out a couple of things when the opportunity arises. One thing we had never gotten around to doing was visiting the Night Bus conductor. The bus is out in the bright sun, so it’s usually hot and the kids tend to shy away if there is any line at all. Since there was only one other family in front of us, I insisted we take the chance to chat up the conductor.




    “I have been looking all over the world for the world’s best sister,” the conductor said to Kara referencing her shirt. “And here you are!” He was very funny asking the girls questions and getting responses from the shrunken head in the window. Since there wasn’t a line, he spent quite a bit of time with us.




    As we finished our visit, I asked if we could take a peak inside the bus. I had seen pictures online, but didn’t know where the entrance was. The conductor said he left the door open round back for us. Sure enough, when we went around to the back of the bus the door was open for us to check out the inside of the bus.




    There’s a gate preventing guests from actually touring the inside of the bus, but you can step up and look around. I’m not sure most tourists actually realize that this is around back.




    Inside the bus you can see the beds and luggage of students making their way too and from Hogwarts just like in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. You can even see a bit of the chandelier.




    Kara wanted to stop at the phone booth outside Diagon Alley to get a secret message from the Ministry of Magic. You have to spell out M-A-G-I-C on a rotary phone to get the message. Of course, most kids have no idea how to use a phone without a keypad, so you always see parents stepping in to help kids manipulate the dial. After a couple of attempts, the girls were able to ring the Ministry up.




    As we entered Diagon Alley, Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees were starting their show. Kara grabbed a spot up front and settled in for the show. Mindy and Josie didn’t want to sit around for the whole thing, so they went off and looked at some of the shops while I enjoyed the show with Kara. We had seen it before, but it’s a breezy musical act. I certainly didn’t mind watching it again.




    After the show, the kids wanted ice cream. Specifically, they wanted to go to Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour. I was a little worried that the line would be around the block since it was hot and Diagon Alley was hopping, but it turns out there was no wait at all. Since it had been at least an hour since out last restroom visit, Mindy went off to take a potty break while I took the kids for ice cream.




    The kids ended up ordering the exact same cones they ordered last year. Josie got chocolate and Kara had orange marmalade which tastes very much like a creamsicle. We grabbed a spot outside Gringotts where the kids could eat their ice cream in semi-shade while we waited for Mindy to return. She expected us to be standing in a long line, so she took her time getting back to us. Josie looks really irritated with me in this picture but I think she was asking me a question.


    As hot as it was, the soft-serve ice cream was melting pretty fast. Kara needed help with her cone because she’s something of a slow eater when it comes to ice cream. Somehow, her cone always turns into a melty mush if she is left to eat it on her own. I think it’s because she talks about as much as she eats. The kids were a little less impressed with the ice cream this time around. I’m not sure if they had built it up in their heads or if there was an actual qualitative difference. I did end up eating some of each cone when the kids were done and it did seem to me like the flavor wasn’t as strong as I remembered from our previous visit.




    When Mindy returned, I took the opportunity to visit the restroom myself. This was our third stop of the day, but my first time using the facilities. Back in Hogsmeade, I had finished off a butterbeer plus portions of lemonade and pumpkin juice! Continuing the theme of taking pictures of signs outside of the restrooms we visited, I snapped this photo directing wizards to the men’s room.




    Afterwards, we descended into Knockturn Alley where the villains of the Wizarding World stock up on supplies. I had brought along the maps that came with the wands even though we already knew where the spell locations were. The Knockturn Alley portion of the map is only visible under black light, so we opened the map to see it appear while we were in the alley.


    There are some secret spell locations down there that not everyone knows about. The kids had fun silencing the singing shrunken heads and manipulating an animated skeleton. We also stopped in Borgin and Burkes for a little villainous window shopping.



    As you can see, the afternoon crowds were really building up in Diagon Alley. The heat was starting to sap our energy, so we decided to make our way to the front of the park. The hotel pool was starting to sound like a really good idea.




    But first, we did a little more window shopping. The kids were getting serious about scouting for souvenirs. Since they were using their own money, they were being more selective than they would be if mom and dad were footing the bill. We spent some time pursuing the stuffed animals at Magical Menagerie, but no purchases were made yet.




    On the way out of the park, we passed the Blues Brothers show which was just starting. I have caught bits and pieces of this show, but never an entire performance. I listened in for the first part of the first song, but the girls clearly weren’t interested. They offered to head back to the hotel without me so I could stay as long as I liked, but I decided to go back with them instead. I will have plenty of opportunities to catch the full show some other time.


    There were several characters out at the front of the park. We chatted briefly with Lucile Ball. She wanted to know how I had so many pretty girls. Gee, thanks, Lucy. Betty Boop made me feel a little better by calling me “handsome” when she passed. We were ready to go, so these were quick interactions. But I do appreciate how casual meet and greets are at Universal.




    Apparently we hadn’t had enough sweets yet today because we made a quick stop on our way out to pick up some baked goods. The girls snuck into this bakery a couple times during the trip so I don’t really remember what they picked up on this particular visit. At various points, I know we had brownies, cookies and rice krispie treats.




    To cool off, Kara stuck her head in the ice cream freezer. Sometimes, I wonder about this kid. She asked me to take a picture with her head jammed into the frozen novelty items. I should probably wonder about myself since I actually took the picture.


    After a quick water taxi ride, we were back at the hotel. We wasted no time getting over to the pool to cool off. I have visited a lot of hotel pools in Orlando and Portofino Bay’s is among the best of them. It has a laundry list of fun features including a sand beach, a grotto, a big hot tub and a very impressive water slide. There’s also a pool bar and cabanas available for rental although I don’t see why that would be necessary if you are a hotel guest. There are the usual activities for kids including movies at night and there are complimentary towels, sunscreen and citrus water at the entrance. All in all, it checks off all the boxes for a hotel pool and then some. We visited the pool just about every day of our trip.


    Later that night, we were meeting some friends of Mindy’s at CityWalk for dinner.


    Next: Cowfish and skydiving
     

    schumigirl

    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    Joined
    May 15, 2007
    Love your pictures again!!

    Agree, the Knight Bus is wonderful........love the shrunken head and conductor, and yes, a lot of folks don’t realise you can go in the back of the bus somewhat.......it is cute!

    I must try the orange marmalade ice cream at some point.........and yes PB pool is a lot of fun......

    Really enjoying your report!!
     

    angryduck71

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 9, 2010
    Really enjoying your report. I really want to go back to Volcano Bay -- we got a daybed and it was perfect (just for my son and me). Had a safe right there and it was a lot cheaper than a cabana. We went soon after the park opened and actually had the express passes they "sold" for just a bit. Lots of things were still a little up in the air then, but I so want to go back!

    Your Hulk and Forbidden Journey stories reminded me of our last trip... I was on RRR and didn't get my lanyard inside my shirt before blast off. And, guess what? It flew off. The lady behind me actually CAUGHT IT. It could have hurt her! So thankful to her. I think of her often. I tried to buy her butterbeer, real beer, dinner, anything. She wouldn't let me.

    I also thought how different our kids are. lol. I took my son to Universal when he was three. The first thing he saw at IOA was the Hulk. He looked up from his stroller, pointed, and said, "I WANNA RIDE THAT!!!!" We went a trip or two before he was tall enough and he was DELIGHTED when he finally just managed to be tall enough! Glad now, though, that it's a more smooth ride than the first time he rode it. We got to ride the front row on a VIP tour this last trip and he was over the moon!

    Can't wait to read more!
     

    lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008
    Love your pictures again!!

    Agree, the Knight Bus is wonderful........love the shrunken head and conductor, and yes, a lot of folks don’t realise you can go in the back of the bus somewhat.......it is cute!

    I must try the orange marmalade ice cream at some point.........and yes PB pool is a lot of fun......

    Really enjoying your report!!
    I had to force the kids to go to the Night Bus. In past trips, the suggestion was met with resistance. This year, since the line was practially non-existent, I just steered us to the bus. Even then, the kids objected to actually talking with the conductor but as you can see they had a good time once they were face-to-face.

    I think it might have been one of your trip reports that tipped me off to the back of the bus. This is one of the benefits of reading about other people's vacations. You never know what discoveries you might make.

    The orange marmalade is tasty, but I would have liked to have mixed things up a bit. I always want to try something new. Mindy and the girls find something they like and stick with it.

    Really enjoying your report. I really want to go back to Volcano Bay -- we got a daybed and it was perfect (just for my son and me). Had a safe right there and it was a lot cheaper than a cabana. We went soon after the park opened and actually had the express passes they "sold" for just a bit. Lots of things were still a little up in the air then, but I so want to go back!

    Your Hulk and Forbidden Journey stories reminded me of our last trip... I was on RRR and didn't get my lanyard inside my shirt before blast off. And, guess what? It flew off. The lady behind me actually CAUGHT IT. It could have hurt her! So thankful to her. I think of her often. I tried to buy her butterbeer, real beer, dinner, anything. She wouldn't let me.

    I also thought how different our kids are. lol. I took my son to Universal when he was three. The first thing he saw at IOA was the Hulk. He looked up from his stroller, pointed, and said, "I WANNA RIDE THAT!!!!" We went a trip or two before he was tall enough and he was DELIGHTED when he finally just managed to be tall enough! Glad now, though, that it's a more smooth ride than the first time he rode it. We got to ride the front row on a VIP tour this last trip and he was over the moon!

    Can't wait to read more!
    We must have been there around the same time last year. I think they were still selling EP at Volcano Bay when we visited, but it didn't last much longer after that. I had originally reserved priority seating, but I ended up cancelling the reservation when it was just Kara and me. It seems like an affordable alternative to the cabanas. I just can't justify the expense for those.

    Yikes! Glad to hear your lanyard story had a happy ending. I would have been mortified! It's one of those things you never think can happen until it does.

    Kids are different. When discussing the perfect ages for Disney or Universal I am always careful to point out that it depends on the kid. Even with the same kids, it varies day by day. Kara is pretty consistently cautious when it comes to rides, but some days she is braver than others. Josie went through a bit of a thrill junkie stage, but that didn't last long. Some things I can get her to ride with me. But once she has made up her mind on something, she's unlikely to change it.

    Good to hear your son enjoyed the Hulk. Someday...
     

    bobbie68

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 14, 2009
    Hi enjoying your report!! I totally understand Mindy's claustrophobia. I use to suffer very bad from it but it seems to be a bit better now. OMG I had a flashback when you mentioned Spaceship Earth. That had to be the worse ride for someone with claustrophobia. Nice to see they enjoyed the Mummy! We enjoy the Jimmy Fallon ride and attraction glad to see someone else does.

    We all like the big coasters so that works for us. The water rides none of us like to be in wet clothes so we skip them. It can be a little challenging when the family has a little different way to vacation but it looks like it was all working out for you. Nice idea to go solo for some rides.

    We went to PBH this past June and loved it there. We did the club level and will do that every visit from now on. It was such a money saver for my family! The food looks good from Sal's. We only ate in the park once a day due to the club level.

    We love Universal vacations the most. We try and go every year. We went to VB last year and loved it! We made sure to get back there at least two half days. We had the express pass for it last year so did full days. This year we only did half days in the morning when it wasn't crowded. We love all the tube rides and the coaster. The fearless river is great! We used it last year with tubes but I like it better with the life vests. I have to agree with the pace and style of this park. We are a water park family so this has everything. Sorry to hear about the sun burn on your daughter. It is awful when that happens. Glad she bounced back quickly.

    This was our first year we encountered a lot of rain. It was a bit disappointing. I can understand how that could be part of a do over. Glad you seem to be catching better weather.

    I love the character meet and greets. I have yet to meet Doc so I will be on the look out for him next time.

    It is so nice to see family pics on vacation where everyone is smiling and having a great time! Thanks for sharing.
     

    lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008

    After some time in the parks and an afternoon dip in the pool, we were meeting some friends at CityWalk for dinner. Larry and Janell have made similar appearances in previous trip reports. Mindy befriended Janell through a work trip and they have stayed in touch ever since. They don’t have kids of their own, so they have kind of adopted ours as out-of-town grandkids. They are Florida residents so sometimes they drive to Orlando to meet up with us when we’re in town. Last year, we enjoyed dinner at the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium so this summer Mindy wanted to introduce them to our favorite CityWalk restaurant, Cowfish.


    Mindy and the girls were quite enamored of Cowfish last year. We ate there twice during our stay and they couldn’t wait to go back again. I suspect their enjoyment of Cowfish played a big part in Mindy’s willingness to buy Universal passes this year. Just about any time I asked where the girls wanted to eat, Cowfish was in the running. We held off until Larry and Janell could join us.

    We got to CityWalk early to see if there was a long wait. Cowfish has started taking reservations, but they didn’t have anything for six around dinner time. The time I was quoted for a table was reasonable, but they wouldn’t take our name until our entire party had arrived. Last year, we ran into a similar situation at Toothsome, so we decided just to camp out for a while and wait for our friends to arrive. It was hot out and it seemed like it could rain at any minute. But fortunately, nothing heavy ever came down.


    When Larry and Janell arrived, we made our way to the hostess and were quoted a wait of roughly a half hour if we wanted to eat indoors. It wasn’t so hot that eating outside was out of the question, but it was hot enough that I was willing to wait for air conditioning. It turned out to be a moot point because they had a table for us immediately.

    The concept of Cowfish is a fusion of sushi and burgers. The East meets West theme carries over to the decor which includes posters of iconic figures from opposite sides of the world blended together in unusual ways. The menu is eclectic and should have something for everyone who enjoys either sushi or burgers. None of us eat sushi and that has never been a problem. If you like both, you’re in luck because Cowfish won’t make you choose. They have sushi-inspired burgers, burger-inspired sushi or dishes that serve up some of each.


    The girls all knew what they wanted. Mindy had been thinking about Cheeseburgooshi ever since last year’s trip. The kids menu offers a lot of flexibility for the girls to construct a bento box of their favorites. I was undecided. My plan going in was to order something new off of the burger side of the menu, but when I sat down to eat a burger sounded too heavy. Only a few hours ago, I was helping the girls finish off melty ice cream cones and I hadn’t yet made room for the Rise and Swine or The Big Squeal. So, I opted instead to repeat my order from last year. The High Class Hillbilly is pulled pork served sushi-style drenched in BBQ sauce and topped with coleslaw and a crispy potato web.

    The first time we met Larry and Janell, Mindy insisted on picking up the check as a way to say “thank you” for all the packages they had sent to our kids. Ever since, Mindy and Larry have been locked in combat over who was paying for dinner. Last year, Larry somehow got the waitress to bring him the bill. This year, Mindy came out victorious. They are both very sneaky.


    Afterwards, Larry asked if they could come back to Portofino Bay with us. He had been a traveling salesman before he retired and he said hotels interest him. I had to admit that Portofino Bay is pretty cool as hotels go. If I wasn’t staying there, I would probably want to check it out too. So we all hopped on a water taxi and went back to the hotel together. We arrived in time to hear the nightly performance of the opera singer on the balcony in the spotlights. The hotel really does give the impression of some idealized Italian village square. This area hosts several different activities including an art show and wine tasting.

    We stopped by the room for a quick tour. Then Larry asked to check out some of the public areas. So we roamed the hotel lobby and visited some of the onsite stores and bars.


    My pictures here are unfortunately a bit fuzzy. I think I must have left the camera on the “food” setting after I snapped the photo of my meal at Cowfish. Generally speaking, I find that pictures don’t do the hotel justice. A static image doesn’t convey the level of immersion you feel when you are actually walking through Portofino Bay.


    The lobby area is heavily perfumed. There is a strong floral scent. It is so strong that I imagine it may be an irritant to some people who have problems with such things. For most people, the scents will contribute to the overall ambiance.


    The illusion of being in an Italian fishing village carries over into the interior hallways which look like a European street full of quaint little shops. The trinkets on sale included all the expected souvenirs but also fancier items for those who were in the market for something more upscale.


    As a compromise to letting Mindy pick up the tab for dinner this time, Larry insisted on treating the kids to dessert. Kara had already suggested that we should get frozen yogurt at Menchies. It’s one of those places where they let you fill your cup with yogurt and toppings and then you pay by weight. Typically, the girls’ eyes are bigger than their stomachs and we end up buying a lot more yogurt than they can eat. I always tell them not to overfill their cups, but no one ever listens. Since Larry was paying, I stressed moderation. The girls will tell you they held back, but I’m not so sure. Those cups looked pretty full to me.


    The place was packed, so I waited outside while the girls made their selections. There was quite a bit to choose from. Kara had her heart set on covering her dessert with strawberry bursting boba. Unfortunately, the only boba they had today was mango. She decided that would be okay and loaded up. Once the cups were weighed in and paid for we all sat outside and enjoyed a relaxing post-meal treat. Even though I hadn’t ordered anything, I ended up sampling some of the girls’ yogurt. Not surprisingly, neither one of the finished although Joey came close. Kara had chosen a key lime yogurt as one of her flavors. I don’t know if she liked it or not, but I sure did. It actually mixed very well with the exploding mango boba.

    After a pleasant visit, it was time to bid farewell to Larry and Janell. They waved to us from the bridge as our water taxi took us back to the hotel.


    The next morning we had a different kind of adventure planned. We rented a car this year with the intention of leaving property more than we ended up doing. I had hoped to offset the costs of meals by doing a little grocery shopping and eating a few meals offsite, but ultimately it was just so convenient to stay on property that we only used the car once during the trip. So we probably won’t do that again.

    Since we had a car, we took the opportunity to do something Mindy has been wanting to try for years; indoor skydiving. If you’re unfamiliar with the sport, it’s the thing where you get into a wind tunnel in a flight suit and get blown into the air. Let me tell you, it’s harder than it looks.

    We grabbed a quick breakfast at McDonald’s before our appointment. I had planned to go to Hash House a Go Go instead, but Mindy was worried we wouldn’t have enough time. When we pulled up to the Hash House parking lot, they had a weird thing going on with valet parking. The sign said it was complimentary, but I didn’t get a chance to read the whole thing. Already nervous about whether or not we had enough time for a sitdown breakfast, Mindy pulled out of the parking lot and back onto the street before I could figure out what was going on. I don’t know if this is typical or a temporary arrangement for the restaurant, but we were headed to McDonald’s.


    I had read a few reviews on the iFly experience before I booked our package. Generally the reviews were positive. Our package included ten flights to be divided up among the family. I figured everyone could try it once and if they didn’t like it, they could let someone else take up the rest of our time. The kids were a little timid about the entire idea, but they agreed reluctantly to try it out.

    The reviews I read had me prepared for an hour or more of dull training before we stepped into the wind tunnel. But that’s not what happened at all. Our instructor was a superchill guy. I want to say his name was Tae. If that wasn’t it, it was something similarly rad. He had long hair and was clearly born to be an extreme sports instructor.

    Tae (I’m just going to go with that), paired us with another family and had us start suiting up immediately. We watched a short video and he showed us a few hand signals. I think there were five total and one of them was “hang loose”. We weren’t going to be able to hear each other once we stepped into the wind tunnel, so it was important to be able to communicate non-verbally.

    And that was that. After maybe a half hour, we were stepping into the wind tunnel. Since there were four of us, Tae decided to redistribute our flight times so everyone could go on two two-and-a-half minute flights. The other family did half of their flights first and then it was our turn. Mindy loved every second of the experience.


    The kids did very well. Maybe a little too well. On the second flight, Tae took everyone who he thought was up to it into the higher part of the tunnel. When he took Kara higher in the air, she wasn’t a fan. Other than that, both girls enjoyed themselves. I’m not sure if they would want to do it again though.

    Personally, I was glad I did it once but I can’t say I enjoyed it. While the feeling of weightlessness was cool, two and a half minutes of having wind blown in my face was at least sixty seconds too long for me. I gave up my second flight and let Mindy have a third go-round. She was more than happy to do it again. Tae told us that they would be opening a location near us sometime in the future. If they do, I bet Mindy will become a regular customer.


    When we finished, we were able to download some videos that were included in our package. Then we made a stop by a nearby Publix to stock up on snacks and drinks for the room. When we got back to Portofino Bay, I took the girls to the pool for a swim. It was entirely too hot in the middle of the afternoon to head out to the parks.

    Next: Daddy-daughter day
     
    Last edited:

    lebeau

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 2, 2008
    Hi enjoying your report!! I totally understand Mindy's claustrophobia. I use to suffer very bad from it but it seems to be a bit better now. OMG I had a flashback when you mentioned Spaceship Earth. That had to be the worse ride for someone with claustrophobia. Nice to see they enjoyed the Mummy! We enjoy the Jimmy Fallon ride and attraction glad to see someone else does.

    We all like the big coasters so that works for us. The water rides none of us like to be in wet clothes so we skip them. It can be a little challenging when the family has a little different way to vacation but it looks like it was all working out for you. Nice idea to go solo for some rides.

    We went to PBH this past June and loved it there. We did the club level and will do that every visit from now on. It was such a money saver for my family! The food looks good from Sal's. We only ate in the park once a day due to the club level.

    We love Universal vacations the most. We try and go every year. We went to VB last year and loved it! We made sure to get back there at least two half days. We had the express pass for it last year so did full days. This year we only did half days in the morning when it wasn't crowded. We love all the tube rides and the coaster. The fearless river is great! We used it last year with tubes but I like it better with the life vests. I have to agree with the pace and style of this park. We are a water park family so this has everything. Sorry to hear about the sun burn on your daughter. It is awful when that happens. Glad she bounced back quickly.

    This was our first year we encountered a lot of rain. It was a bit disappointing. I can understand how that could be part of a do over. Glad you seem to be catching better weather.

    I love the character meet and greets. I have yet to meet Doc so I will be on the look out for him next time.

    It is so nice to see family pics on vacation where everyone is smiling and having a great time! Thanks for sharing.
    Thanks for reading. We seem to agree on a lot of subjects. Fallon, to me, gets a bad rap. It's not a great ride, but there's nothing wrong with it. If it was in Hollywood Studios instead of Universal, the Disney folks would never **** up about how awesome it is. We really enjoyed our stay at PB. I currently have a club level room booked for Spring Break next year. It's expensive, sure, but the kids had a tendency to snack all day as opposed to eating full meals. We spend a fair amount of time at the hotel and sometimes we were frustrated with the dining options there. It seems like club level would be worth it for us.

    The rain last summer was crazy. We were also dealing with some mild illness and a fractured ankle, so just a lot of bad luck. We made the best of it, but I was glad things ran more smoothly this year. You can't complain too much if you're at Universal. Plenty of people never get to enjoy a vacation like this.

    I'll tell Doc to look out for you next time I see him! ;)
     

    bobbie68

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 14, 2009
    Thanks I appreciate that:thumbsup2

    I have heard about the indoor skydiving but haven't done it. It sounds like something part of my family would like. I was hooked on trying it till you mentioned the wind in the face a little to long. My daughter and I would not like that. It is something I would let the guys try on a trip or when we move there in the next year or so....

    I am not sure if you saw my trip report but I put quite a bit of pics on the club level https://www.disboards.com/threads/another-great-trip-to-report-yay-june-july-2018.3693961/page-3#post-59597508 If you get a chance and want to check it out before next Spring please do. If you have any questions on it just ask.

    We drove down this year so we had a car. We usually fly and have Tony pick us up. I thought we might use the car more but nope! If I fly again I won't rent a car agree it is so much easier to stay on site to eat.

    Congrats on the weight loss!!

    Looking forward to the rest!
     

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